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Loyola Magazine


Taking faith and justice coast to coast

Simone Campbell

As the leader of the Nuns on the Bus campaign, Sister Simone Campbell has helped to educate people on issues of social justice and mobilize more Americans to vote. (Photo: courtesy of NETWORK)

5 Questions With... Sister Simone Campbell

By Maura Sullivan Hill

Sister Simone Campbell has appeared on 60 Minutes, The Colbert Report, and The Daily Show—not the usual territory for a Catholic sister. But Campbell gained fame as the face of the Nuns on the Bus campaign, a series of cross-country road trips focused on economic justice, immigration reform, and voter turnout.

A member of the Sisters of Social Service, Campbell has spent her entire career advocating for social justice. Since 2004, she has served as the executive director of NETWORK, a DC-based Catholic lobby for social justice that educates, organizes, and lobbies for economic and social transformation. In addition to being a religious leader, Campbell is also a lawyer who has served for 18 years as the lead attorney for the Community Law Center in Oakland, California, which served the family law and probate needs of the working poor. 

After giving the address at this year’s commencement for The Graduate School and the Institute for Pastoral Studies, was asked Campbell about her approach to advocacy in today’s polarized times and what keeps her committed to speaking out for social justice:

1. How did you come up with the Nuns on the Bus concept?

In 2012, NETWORK received some unexpected media attention after a censure from the Vatican. My prayer at that time was, "How do we use this moment to further our mission?" So we had the idea of going on the road to push back against the proposed budget at that time, which would have decimated programs for people in need.

We picked a very serious title, “Nuns Drive for Faith, Family, and Fairness,” but our graphic designer thought that was the tagline, praise God, so he designed a logo that said, “Nuns on the Bus: Drive for Faith, Family, and Fairness.” When we got it back, I just had to laugh, because that’s what it is, even though we had tried to be so serious. And since then, Nuns on the Bus has become a big thing. It was a humbling, surprising, amazing journey that was so much a gift of the Holy Spirit.

2. What has Nuns on the Bus taught you about getting people involved in the political process?

The bus provides community for folks that are hungry to be connected. The bus is about joy, and in challenging times, the joy of being together is something that I think people are really hungry for. On the third trip, which was about voter turnout, we started a ritual of signing the bus itself. If people committed to vote for the common good, they signed the bus at the end of our events. By the end of the trip, it was no longer just nuns on the bus—it was everybody on the bus, all committed to the common good.

3. How do you navigate advocating for social justice in this highly polarized moment in history?

For me, it’s really telling the stories of people I’ve met and engaging others in their stories. Right now, we’re fighting the big fight to keep funding for SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program). In Milwaukee, I met Billy and his wife, who work full time but have to use all their salary to keep a roof over their and their two kids’ heads. They use food stamps to feed their boys during the day—you know boys in the middle of a growth spurt, they devour everything in sight—and then go to a soup kitchen at a local parish for dinner.

Billy told me his dream is to be able to buy his kids new school clothes, because they have only ever had hand-me-downs. In this polarized, politicized world, Billy’s story cuts through a lot of that. It is not just an anonymous dollars and cents thing—we’re talking about families who are working and caring for small kids, or the disabled, or the elderly.

4. In your commencement speech, you said, “Currently, our nation is caught in a huge struggle between either individualism or a common good, a common dimension of democracy. I’m welcoming you to this next step and urging to use your gifts, your knowledge, your Loyola training, to work for the communal dimension of the common good.” Why did you choose this message for the graduates?

There is this message that the wealthy should accrue wealth and hoard it, take care of themselves. There’s no sense of responsibility for each other—it’s like survival of the fittest. But that’s the antithesis of the Gospel. The Gospel is all about welcoming everybody in, “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened.” So I thought that message helped convey how we walk in this very challenging world with some hope. And we can only do that together.

5. You also quoted an exhortation from Pope Francis to learn from others. Why is that important today?

That is the key, to know that I’m not the holder of all knowledge. And students, especially at the graduate level, they know that all of their research and engagement is built on what’s gone before. They have this learning, and it needs to be applied as shared problem solving to accomplish a shared goal. We need to engage the challenges of our time willing to learn from those around us.

Giving students a global view

Gilman scholars

Loyola University Chicago is among the top producers of Gilman Scholars, helping students with financial need find a way to study abroad


By Maura Sullivan Hill

Loyola University Chicago was named a top producer of Gilman Scholars for 2016-2017 by the U.S. State Department, which sponsors the scholarship. The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Award supports study abroad for undergraduates with financial need and is open to two- and four-year college students who are Pell Grant recipients.

This is the first ranking of its kind since the scholarship’s inception in 2001, and Loyola is among such universities as Georgetown, Northwestern, and Columbia on the list of mid-sized colleges and universities (5,000-15,000 undergraduate students). Nine Loyola students earned Gilman Scholarships in 2016-2017 and were able to embark on study abroad semesters that otherwise would not have been possible.

“With scholarships such as Gilman, as well as Loyola’s many affordable study abroad options, we have a high-quality program for every student, regardless of budget,” said Brian Johnson, Loyola’s associate director of study abroad. “Gilman helps get students overseas who have been historically underrepresented in study abroad, including first-generation University students, STEM students, ethnic minority students, and students with disabilities.”

For students who need additional financial assistance, the Study Abroad Office has partnered with Loyola’s Fellowship Office to offer more support. James M. Calcagno, professor of anthropology and the founding director of the Fellowship Office, established a program called Gilman Incentive Grants (GIG) in 2015 to help students better prepare applications for the Gilman Scholarship. Students submit their Gilman essays for feedback prior to applying and are eligible for a $250 award that can be deducted from their tuition, regardless of whether they end up receiving a Gilman Scholarship.

“We have a proven track record of success, where GIG recipients are much more likely to earn a Gilman scholarship than those who did not use this opportunity,” Calcagno said. “During a recent cycle, the only students who earned a Gilman or were chosen as an alternate were those who earned a GIG.”

Trevaughn Latimer, an economics major with minors in psychology and mathematics, used his Gilman Scholarship to study at the Loyola Vietnam Center in Ho Chi Minh City. He said the experience could not have been more different than his life on campus at Loyola or in his home city of St. Louis. Not only did he learn about the religion, language, and culture of Vietnam, he said, but “I had to try and understand the mindsets of individuals who grew up completely different than me.”

Latimer also found that being an African American in Vietnam drew attention to him and gave him an opportunity to educate local residents about his own background and culture. “A lot of the Vietnamese people associate America with white people," he said. "I got to challenge this perception.” This experience, he explained, has inspired Latimer to want to continue to travel around the world to share the experiences of black Americans with people of other cultures.

Teresa Dorado, an environmental science major and visual communication minor from Green Bay, Wisconsin, spent the fall 2017 semester in San Ramón, Costa Rica, through a Loyola partnership with the University Studies Abroad Consortium. “I was able to immerse myself in the festivities and customs of Costa Rica with the help of my amazing host family and new friends,” Dorado said. “This experience challenged and inspired me to go beyond the surface and really get to know and understand the rich Costa Rican culture.”

The experience also helped Dorado learn more about herself.

“The support of this scholarship gave me confidence and motivation to embrace my multiple identities as a low-income, first-generation, and Latina student,” she said. “It was an incredible help to have the financial support and a network of other Gilman alumni.”

Learn more about Loyola's study abroad programs

Setting up African American students for success


Students at Arrupe College are getting some valuable advice from mentors like Loyola School of Law student Jalen Brown (center) through the Black Men for Success program. (Photo: Matthew Ng)

A new mentorship program is helping Arrupe College students get ahead

By Maura Sullivan Hill

When Jacque Stefanic began his freshman year at Arrupe College in the fall of 2017, he came downtown to campus only to attend class, then immediately went back home. He had no plans to get involved outside the classroom–until he got an e-mail inviting him to the first meeting of a group called Black Men for Success.

“My classes end at 5 o’clock, and I would be out the door,” Stefanic said. “But now, I’m at school from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.” Those long days include being a senator with student government and working as an intern in the Executive Education program at the Quinlan School of Business, all of which Stefanic attributes to his involvement with Black Men for Success. “The mentors helped me realize all the opportunities Arrupe is giving me, and I want to take advantage of them.”

Founded in 2015, Arrupe College acts as a bridge between high school and a four-year degree for diverse, low-income, first-generation college students. Black Men for Success (BMS), which began last fall, provides additional, holistic support for African American students through academic support, social-emotional mentorship, and career counseling. In April, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation made a gift of $1.5 million in support of Black Men for Success and other diversity and student success programming at Arrupe.

In BMS, Arrupe students are paired with a mentor who helps them hone their abilities and position themselves for success at Arrupe and beyond. The group, comprised of about 15 Arrupe students and their mentors, meets every other Friday evening, and mentors provide additional one-on-one support. The mentors—including several Loyola law students as well as practicing attorneys—invite professionals to speak to the group on topics aimed at helping the Arrupe students succeed.

Stefanic said it was the interview tips from his mentor, law student John Gitta, that helped him land his job at Quinlan. Gitta also helps Stefanic with research papers—including a recent one for his Roman civilization class that earned an A. Stefanic is studying business administration and would like to continue his education at Quinlan after he graduates from Arrupe.

Jalen Brown, a second-year law student, is another mentor with Black Men for Success. He said the mentors try to offer practical advice, like avoiding distractions to focus on studying, as well as career tips. “I think they like having a group of people who support them and want them to succeed,” Brown said.

For Brown, it is also an opportunity to prepare for his own future. “My goal as a lawyer is to help others and be a part of positive change for the future,” he said. “This program teaches participants how to be better students and better men. We want them to do well in school and guide them toward pursuing a four-year degree.”

The McCormick Foundation grant will fund an Assistant Dean for Student Success and two full-time faculty members, all of whom will support the Black Men for Success Program, as well as speakers, conferences, and events for BMS. It will be administered over a three-year period, ending in June 2021.

“Arrupe’s strategic goal to recruit and retain African American male students aligns with the McCormick Foundation’s efforts to facilitate opportunities for the underserved black population of Chicago,” said Father Steve Katsouros, S.J., dean and executive director of Arrupe College. “This is another game changer brought to us by McCormick, whose first gift to us for $1 million in 2015 encouraged others to invest in our startup college. All of us at Arrupe are extremely grateful to McCormick.”

That transformational initial gift in 2015 helped fund operating expenses and provided scholarships for 29 McCormick Foundation Scholars.

“We are proud to support the launch and growth of such an innovative model to make college accessible, affordable, and successful for these amazing young people,” said David Hiller, President and CEO of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Seeking the origin of our solar system

NASA Genesis

NASA’s Genesis spacecraft spent more than two years hovering about 1 million miles from the Earth’s surface collecting samples of solar wind, but crashed upon its return to Earth in 2004. Loyola faculty member Martina Schmeling is among the scientists working with NASA to salvage the samples. (Photo: courtesy Martina Schmeling)

Faculty Research

Since 2009, Loyola chemist Martina Schmeling has been working with space samples to help unlock longstanding mysteries about our world

By Daniel P. Smith

On an October day in her Loyola University lab, Martina Schmeling is holding the sun in her hand and, quite possibly, new clues about the creation of our solar system.

As a member of NASA’s Genesis mission, Schmeling, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, has spent the last eight years developing procedures to clean extraterrestrial material gathered by the Genesis spacecraft. In the process, Schmeling is helping a global team of scientists begin to unlock longstanding mysteries related to planetary materials, cosmochemistry, and the origin of our solar system.

“What we know about solar composition is all based on models and a lot of assumptions, but these samples will help scientists gather more concrete information about solar bodies that will ultimately inform our understanding of galaxy and solar formation,” says Schmeling, a Loyola faculty member since 1999.

On the frontiers of science
Launched in 2001, NASA’s Genesis spacecraft spent more than two years hovering about 1 million miles from the Earth’s surface collecting samples of solar wind, a remnant of the original nebula from which our solar system formed some 4.6 billion years ago.

When the spacecraft attempted to return the samples to Earth in 2004, however, a parachute malfunction on the sample-return capsule led to a high-speed wreck in the Utah desert. With the samples fracturing into small pieces and contaminated by exposure to space radiation, NASA officials were forced to alter their plans. After discovering solar-wind ions buried beneath the surface of the collectors, NASA recruited an international team of scientists, including Schmeling, into its effort to salvage the samples.

“This is the type of project scientists dream of being involved with because it’s working on the frontiers of science,” Schmeling says.

Supported by NASA under the planetary science program, Schmeling joined the Genesis control team in establishing cleaning procedures to ensure that scientists could analyze the samples.

“The progress is slow because of the complexity of the samples, but we’re steadily developing procedures for single fragments,” Schmeling says, adding that the long-term goal is to create a deep repository of clean samples scientists can access for study. “This work has required a lot of patience, creativity, and endurance, but that’s really the beauty and fun of science.”

Raising deeper questions
More recently, Schmeling’s work on the Genesis mission has evolved to include analyzing the samples for solar composition of selected elements, work that has led to the construction of novel instrumentation with the help of third-year PhD candidate Elizabeth Jamka. When complete, the tandem’s Grazing Incident X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer will be able to perform depth-profiling analysis of solar wind embedded into the Genesis samples.

“This will help us do additional surface mapping and gather information about solar bodies,” Schmeling says.

From collaborating with scientists around the globe to attending NASA’s annual gathering on the ongoing Genesis mission and shaking hands with space-navigating astronauts, Schmeling calls her experience with NASA a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I’m a part of solving some of the most intriguing questions about our solar system,” she beams.

Yet more, Schmeling says her spot on the mission team has energized her teaching and scholarship, awakening deeper questions about the origins of elements and spurring a more intense passion for scientific discovery that she’s carrying into the classroom and the lab.

“I originally come from environmental science, and at certain point the research becomes redundant because you can only take so many air quality samples in Chicago,” Schmeling says. “This opportunity with NASA has afforded me a new research avenue and led to new perspectives on science that have been so gratifying.”

Crossing the political divide


U.S. Congressional Representatives Randy Hultgren, center left, and Brad Schneider, center right, talk to Loyola students following a panel discussion on civil discourse. (Photo: Jim Young)

Can Republicans and Democrats work together? Two Congressional representatives suggest there is still hope for bipartisanship.

By Evangeline Politis

From gerrymandering to super PACS, there are many contributors to the nation’s lacking bipartisanship. Republican Randy Hultgren and Democrat Brad Schneider, U.S. congressmen who represent areas surrounding Chicago, aimed to dismantle that narrative this year by sitting next to each other at the State of the Union Address, putting aside the usual party-line seating arrangement.

The two crossed the aisle again and joined in discussion at Loyola’s panel on civil discourse in April in the Information Commons. They discussed a broad spectrum of timely topics, including the instigators that cause political extremes, the importance of civic engagement, and issues on which politicians can cooperate.

“If you’re not willing to compromise, it’s virtually impossible to make progress as a nation,” explained Schneider. “He’s a Republican, and I’m a Democrat. We have different perspectives and different positions, but we can sit down and talk to each other about an issue and find out where that common ground is.”

The two also offered advice to Loyola students in the room who want to make a difference beyond the voting booth—and actually run for election themselves. Hultgren pinpointed the importance of having an energized volunteered base, and Schneider the identified the value of a candidate’s connection with voters.

The role of identity politics in hindering bipartisanship was also brought up by the moderator Twyla Blackmond Larnell, assistant professor in political science. Both congressmen agreed that stereotyping voters based on demographics and certain qualities is a trend, specifically in marketing, that has to be combated.

“The mile markers of your past don’t necessarily determine what you’re going to think, how you’re going to vote, or what you’re going to buy,” said Hultgren. “The challenge of identity politics is that it can oversimplify and take away the vibrancy of individuals. … We have to reach beyond that and have the ability to grow and develop.”

Podcast your voice


Social work professor Jonathan Singer shares his secrets to developing a successful podcast

By Lauren Krause

Podcasting is Jonathan Singer’s passion. Podcasts, Singer explains, allow a storyteller to express themselves outside the parameters of a traditional print format. Tone of voice, inflection, use of music, or absence of background noise are all ways to emphasize points. “The experience of audio only versus video is that we naturally create images in our mind about what the person is talking about,” said Singer, an associate professor in the School of Social Work and the voice behind the popular Social Work Podcast. “It’s an experience of co-creation.” 

Here are Singer's tips for starting a successful podcast:

1. Figure out what you want to say and who you want to say it to. Start with a large-reaching interest and narrow it further to reflect what you want to say. Subjects can range from topical to archival depending on your goals. 

2. Determine how to reach your audience. “Social media is key to this world,” said Singer. “Start social accounts for your podcast to get the word out and use new or existing hashtags.” Listeners will also want to know when to expect your episodes, so be predictable and clear. Resources like Podtrack, which offers free analytics and paid advertising, can help with audience identification.

3. Get good audio, learn how to edit, and learn how to publish. “Today’s phones have great audio; you could use a phone today to record if you don’t want to purchase costly audio tools,” said Singer. But he advises against interviewing and recording entirely over the phone, except for small clips, and suggests investing in a good headset microphone for remote interviews.

Check out Singer's podcast at socialworkpodcast.blogspot.com

Illustration by Dan Page

A conversation with Wil Haygood


Photo by Julia Ewan/The Washington Post. Used with permission.

An acclaimed author shares his thoughts on race in America, freedom of the press, and seeing his work turned into a Hollywood film

By Maura Sullivan Hill

Award-winning journalist and author Wil Haygood has brought to life some of the most important stories in American history. His 2008 Washington Post article about an African American man who served eight U.S. presidents inspired the film The Butler, and his most recent book, Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed America, chronicles the life of the first African American Supreme Court Justice. Haygood recently visited Loyola’s campus both to speak to outgoing students at commencement and to address incoming students—who read Showdown as their First Year Text—at new student convocation this fall. (Watch Haygood’s convocation remarks here.)

In this extended interview, Haygood discusses why Thurgood Marshall’s story matters today, his thoughts on journalism and a free press, and his experiences on the set of The Butler.

What inspired you to write Showdown?

If you look at Thurgood Marshall, the sweep of his life—the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and then the years he was on the Supreme Court—the flow and drama of those decades tells the story of this country.

My family is originally from Selma, Alabama, that civil rights city, and they moved to Columbus, Ohio, in the 1940s. My mother was a young girl then, and so she did not have access to a good quality education because of the color of her skin. One of her dreams, when she moved up North and married, was that her children would have an opportunity at a much better education than she did.

It meant the world to my mother in 1954, when she was a young mother, that Thurgood Marshall went before the Supreme Court and won his Brown v. Board of Education desegregation lawsuit. That meant, theoretically, that black children would have a chance at decent schools.

If you tell that story, then you’re telling the story of everybody who fled the South for those types of dreams.

What do you hope first-year students glean from reading your book?

Freedom in this country has never been free, especially for African Americans. To have focused on Thurgood Marshall, in my mind, was a wonderful way to tell American history and the arch of this country through the work that he did on behalf of equality and justice.

Students need to know about Thurgood Marshall for the simple fact that he was a patriot, and I think that word has been twisted and tossed around so much of late that we really need to constantly and vigilantly understand who is a genuine patriot. Marshall cared about this country; he cared about voting rights, women’s rights, civil rights, and human rights. The entire spectrum of his life and his court victories, in the battle to confirm him in the highest court in the land, spoke of the ongoing struggle as it relates to justice in this country.

Why is Marshall’s story an important one to tell at this moment in history?

We just came through a very divisive presidential campaign, where racial minorities and women were egregiously and verbally attacked. It has been 50 years since Thurgood Marshall ascended onto the high court. In terms of history, that’s not all that long ago. And it seems a very timely moment, because of the racial confrontations in this country, of the police shootings of unarmed black civilians, of the efforts to repress the minority vote in American cities.

These are roadblocks that Thurgood Marshall always battled against, and his victories were won through the court. I think that’s why he always carried a military replica of the U.S. Constitution in his pocket. He always referred to it. That document is such a beautiful expression of justice and freedom that Marshall always knew he could lean on it. We need the example of Thurgood Marshall today as much as we’ve ever needed it.

In your convocation address, you talked to the Class of 2021 about ways to use their Jesuit education to make a difference. How can others stand up for justice?

America has been in this zone before, where we didn’t know where we were going, and where people suddenly began to vocally attack other people to where there were marches in town squares. This is not new; it is a part, tragically, of the fabric of this country. But there’s always been a road to overcome the hate, and that road remains as visible as ever.

Those who want to improve upon the harsh climate have to do several things: They have to get to know people who don’t look like them, they have to vote, and they have to learn to respect people from different cultures and different genders. That is one of the things I loved as a kid about books. You could go to the public library and pick up a book and read how people in South Africa live, or people in India live.

Those who hate have a very narrow-minded outlook on life, but when you learn, your worldview opens. And I think that is very important. No matter how dark the hour seems, there is light looming. And I think those who play a part in the coming of that light will feel much better as human beings.

What advice do you have for current journalism students?

Telling narrative stories is always a phenomenal way to interest and intrigue and excite readers. It was journalism that taught me how to tell stories. I always keep my eye on the hearts that are beating inside of the people in the stories that I write about.

We need writers and journalists and good filmmakers now, more than ever. We have racial uprisings, these mass shootings, and this news cycle that every day seems worrisome. And so it is very important to tell stories of the people in Mississippi and South Carolina, of all races, who are trying to make sure that people have access to the ballot box, trying to talk reasonably about gun control, trying to make the schools better, trying to investigate the criminal justice system.

These are all things that journalists in training can do, and it is what I’ll continue to do—to tell these stories that I think are good stories because they have so much drama in them. They’re also the kind of stories that help even me understand this country—where we were, where we are, and, some days, I have a sense of where we’re going.

Why is the free press important for the United States?

Free press, all the way back to the days of slavery and the American Revolution, is tantamount to the survival of this nation. As a foreign correspondent who has covered several wars, its heartbreaking to see villages absolutely decimated from a nighttime attack by rebels. In these small towns or villages under siege, you often find that the people who overtake them, one of the first things they do is burn down the newspaper office or somebody’s home if they were printing leaflets in an effort to get people to stop fighting.

That is the first thing that happens in these war zones: They eliminate the free press. That’s because these warmongers want to suppress freedom and they want everybody to think like they think. So that pillar, freedom of the press, remains very vibrant, thank goodness, in this country.

Your Washington Post story about Eugene Allen led to a book and a movie. When you wrote the story, did you have any inkling it would become that powerful and moving?

When I wrote the story on Mr. Allen, there were so many things that happened. His wife passed away on the day the country elected the first African American president. And so, as I was writing it, I looked at it as a story that I could bring my narrative knowledge to; I knew about Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson, some of the historical figures I mentioned in the piece.

When I step away from newspapers and take a leave of absence to work on books, it seems that, when I come back into the newsroom, I become a much better journalist. So both of these vocations of mine serve the other: I’m a better journalist because of the books, and I probably write better because of my newspaper experience. And so that story was a good merging of so many themes that I had learned in life as a writer and a researcher. But I never did think, as I was doing it, that it would attract the attention of Hollywood and that it would eventually get made into a movie that has now played all over the world.

How do you approach interviews to get anecdotes as powerful as those in that Post piece?

When I knocked on Mr. and Mrs. Allen’s door, I really think that they hadn’t made up their mind yet if they were going to reveal to me all of this amazing history. There were very few emblems of their White House years in their living room, in their upstairs home, and you saw nothing that would have told you that this man worked at the White House for eight presidents. So after several hours of me very patiently asking questions and listening to them, Mrs. Allen finally turned to Mr. Allen and said, “Sweetie, it’s OK to show him now.” And I didn’t know what that meant.

He stood up—he was quite frail, elderly—and asked me to take him by the arm, led me through the living room and into the kitchen. There was a door leading to this basement. There were several padlocks on this door, and I had no idea why someone would need locks on the door leading to their basement. He told me to hold his arm tight, because it was dark in the basement and he had to get to the center of the room in the basement to turn on the light switch. So we walked very slowly down the steps, and we reached the center of the basement and he flicked on the light.

I had never seen anything like it; it was like being dropped into one of the loveliest rooms at the Smithsonian. There were photographs of Mr. Allen with President Truman, with President Eisenhower, with President Kennedy, with President Johnson, with President Ford, with President Carter, with President Reagan. It was amazing. There were framed letters from every First Lady to him about his work that he had done. There were pictures of him in a tuxedo at White House events. There were gifts from each president: a Stetson hat from Lyndon Johnson, a tie that President Kennedy had worn during the week he was assassinated. There were about 12 big photo albums of pictures with thousands of photographs of him in the White House and on Air Force One. There were pictures of him and Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., James Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, all these 20th century icons who had passed through the White House. This is American history through the eyes of an unknown African American employee at the White House, who never missed a day of work in over 35 years.

I was stunned at what I was looking at—it really was like a self-made museum that was so rich in history. I remember walking over to him and I said, “Mr. Allen, wait a minute now, you mean to tell me that no one has ever written about this? About your life?” And he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Well, if you think I’m worthy, you’ll be the first.” It gives me goose bumps now, just to even recall that moment.

Their son, Charles Allen, always tells me when I see him that it was so unique that his mother trusted me to tell this story, which is why she wanted her husband to unlock that door.

Do you have any mementos from the set of The Butler?

On the last day of filming, Lee Daniels, the director, and Pamela Williams, one of the producers, called me into this big room on the set. Lee thanked me for finding Mr. and Mrs. Allen and writing about them, then introduced me to Stephen Rochon, who was a former White House chief usher and a technical advisor to the movie.

Stephen said that before arriving on set he was back in the White House visiting friends and ran into President Obama, who asked him what he was up to. He told the president that he was heading down to New Orleans to work on the movie The Butler, and that he wanted to get a special gift for Wil Haygood, who wrote the story. So the president tells him to hold on a minute, and goes into his office. He comes back and hands Stephen a box and says, “Why don’t you give this to Wil? He’s a writer, he’ll probably like it.” It was an ink pen with the presidential seal, in a leather case. That was a pretty special moment. That I wrote the story and the making of the film touched the president of the United States at the time, and he sent me a gift. That’s pretty special.

Another unforgettable moment: I had lunch with Oprah Winfrey when I was on the set. She’s explained to me why she really wanted to do the movie. That whole era of blacks in the 1950s, like the Allens, who worked hard up North and sent money to churches in the South to help with the Civil Rights movement, that story has never been told, she said. She told me, “I read your story, Wil, when it came out. And I said to one of my staff, if they ever make a movie of this, I want to be involved.”

What are you working on next?

I am the Patrick Henry Writing Fellow for a year at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. Only one American writer gets this award, so I’m very honored. I’m working on a book about an all-black high school in Columbus, Ohio, in 1968-1969, and all of the amazing and triumphant things that happened inside that high school in the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. They won two state championships that year, one in basketball and one in baseball, and they also won an academic prize.

It’s another example of looking back to a great moment in history and giving evidence that there is a way forward in this narrative story that I found. It has a whole lot of wonderful lessons inside of it. The book will be out next fall, so look for it.

You’ve been on campus at Loyola twice in the past year. What’s impressed you most?

It’s such a rich place in terms of the scholars who are there, in terms of the type of students the school attracts. Simply walking across the campus always makes me feel that I’m in a very, very special place. I certainly didn’t have the grades coming out of high school to be admitted there [laughs], but it seems that the students know the richness and the power and the sacredness of a Jesuit education, and it seems that they truly believe in it.

Every time that I step on the campus, I myself feel like a better human being simply for having been there. I’ve been quite honored and touched to have established this soulful connection to the school.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. An abbreviated version appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of Loyola magazine.

We are what we eat

We are what we eat

"Vertemnus" (detail) by Renaissance artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1591

Changing the way we think about food may be the key ingredient to improving the health of local communities

By Scott Alessi

“I’m not anti-meat,” says Dr. Terry Mason (BS ’74). It’s an odd thing to say for someone whose diet is almost entirely plant-based. It’s even more curious when you consider that Mason has just spent the past hour talking about the connections between staples of the American diet—processed foods, sugary drinks, dairy products, and yes, meat—and the most common illnesses in this country. But Mason, the chief operating officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health, isn’t a critic of any one food in particular. He does, however, want you to change the way you eat.

“I’m not anti-anything; I’m just pro-health,” he says. “And I look at the food supply in America as the number one threat to our health.”

Mason hasn’t always been a proponent of healthy eating. After decades as a urologist, he transitioned into the field of public health in 2009 and began to learn more about the links between diet and disease. It led him to radically shift his own eating habits, and now Mason starts each morning with a shake that usually includes blueberries or blackberries, vegan protein powder, and fresh kale. With mounting medical research to back up his concerns, he’s made it his mission to spread the word about the dangers of the American diet.

“It’s about what helps you and what hurts you, and I’m not going to make any apologies for saying certain foods hurt you,” he says. “Because if we don’t get a handle on what’s going on, we’re going to be among the sickest people on the planet.”

Even with better education about nutrition, he recognizes the challenges of changing people’s eating habits. A proliferation of processed foods fills grocery store shelves. Corporations focus their marketing efforts on kids, pushing sugary drinks and salty snacks adorned with cartoon characters. An abundance of fast food restaurants provide a convenient dinner option for families that are seemingly always on the go.

In his role as a public health official, Mason sees an opportunity to take a community-based approach to the problem in suburban Cook County. And in searching for a local partner to assist in working toward solutions, he turned to his own alma mater.

Loyola has identified the need for collaborative and creative solutions to community health disparities as a key priority of “Plan 2020: Building a More Just, Humane, and Sustainable World,” the University’s five-year strategic plan. Leaders at Loyola’s Health Sciences Division in Maywood are working to identify local health concerns, and the recent Health-EQ conference—at which Mason was among the keynote speakers—took the first steps in developing strategies to tackle these issues.

Mason sees the Maywood community as a sort of “living laboratory” to test out potential solutions to suburban public health issues. Maywood doesn’t have a grocery store, and processed foods are much more accessible to families than natural, healthier options. There’s also a general lack of knowledge about nutrition among many families.

“If we could begin to work out some of the issues in Maywood,” says Mason, “we may be able to develop a blueprint for how we can transform communities all over the country.” Solutions may include things like teaching kids how to plant and grow their own vegetables or helping families find ways to cook healthier meals at home.

But Mason understands that food isn’t the only concern in Maywood. Communities that become food deserts, he says, often lack other vital resources like quality schools, social services, and affordable housing. Convincing people to adjust their diets is only one piece of the puzzle.

That’s where Loyola becomes such a valued partner. Among the strategies of Plan 2020 is a collaboration across disciplines to address health disparities, and Mason believes that’s just what a town like Maywood needs. He sees opportunities to bring together experts from schools across the University—such as law, education, social work, and business—to work together on a range of issues that impact people’s health.

“We could come up with a model where we can empower people, create jobs, help improve housing, and recreate stability in communities,” Mason says. 

Such long-term collaborative efforts can make a significant difference over time. In the more immediate future, Mason just wants people to rethink what’s on their plates. Documentaries like Forks Over Knives and Food, Inc. have increased awareness about the consequences of our food choices, and vegan movements have gained steam in promoting a plant-based diet. But to really make a difference, Mason believes such voices need help in reaching a larger audience.

“That’s what I want to do, and I think an academic partner like Loyola can help create a platform for this,” Mason says. “Loyola can be an academic leader in really changing the world, one bite at a time.” 

The art of healing


Emily Obringer (MD '11) oversees children as they paint at the Quinn Community Center in Maywood, where Obringer has volunteered since her third year at the Stritch School of Medicine. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Stritch School of Medicine

Alumna Emily Obringer (MD '11) has taken a hands-on approach to improving community health in Maywood

By Erinn Connor

Across the street from the rumble of rush hour traffic on the Eisenhower Expressway, about a dozen children ping pong around a brightly lit art room, most with finger paint caked on their palms. At the center of this whirlwind is Emily Obringer (MD ’11), fielding shouts from the kids to have her look at their creations. A 5-year-old named Joshua hovers quietly near her with his finished artwork, proudly showing her his purple creation. She hangs Joshua’s painting up along with the rest on a clothesline, below a hand-painted sign that reads “Quinn Community Center.”

Obringer’s work with the Maywood center started during her third year as a student at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine. She started out working in the soup kitchen at St. Eulalia Parish and soon became involved in the birth of the center.

The Quinn Community Center was at first just an empty former school building attached to St. Eulalia—with parish leaders questioning the best use for the space. Soon it became a safe haven for kids to do arts and crafts, finish their homework, or simply hang out. Maywood is a small village that spans barely more than 2.5 square miles and doesn’t boast many after-school activities for its kids or central gathering areas for its residents.

In her beginning days as a volunteer in the soup kitchen, Obringer sensed the kids, and the teenagers in particular, were eager to create their own opportunities in a place where there weren’t many. “The teens identified that void in the community themselves,” she says. “The first thing they did was create a talent show because they didn’t have any ways to express their interests. They often talk about north of the Eisenhower and south of the Eisenhower in Maywood. There’s very little for the kids on the south part of the city where they are.”

After the success of the talent show, the teenagers wanted to do something for the younger kids in the neighborhood over the summer. That led to the creation of a summer camp hosted by the Quinn Community Center.

Working around her hectic medical school schedule, Obringer helped the teenagers organize a summer camp for about 25 Maywood kids. Now about to be open for its fifth year, the Quinn Community Center summer camp has more than 120 kids in the program with about 30 Maywood teenagers acting as counselors and more Stritch students volunteering.

As the camp gained momentum in the community, Obringer looked for ways to incorporate her medical school training into the Quinn summer camp. She received a grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics that let her build in a nutrition component. The kids are now given milk and water instead of juice to reduce sugar intake. They’ve also created a garden at the community center to grow their own vegetables.

This year Obringer would like to have Loyola medical students teach the teenagers basic health and nutrition concepts, which the Maywood teens can then pass on to younger campers. “It’s been interesting to watch them grow from a health perspective,” she says. “In one of the boxed lunches in the first year of the camp there was a stick of celery and we had the 5-year-olds saying ‘what is this?’ So that spurred me into getting the grant, and now they grow their own veggies.”

Gabriel Lara, director of the Quinn Community Center, says the children had very little exposure, if any, to healthy foods. “A child who before was eating nachos with cheese and drinking soda is now eating salad, freshly cooked pasta, drinking water, and having fruit for dessert,” she says.

Working closely with the kids and seeing their limited access to healthy foods and organized exercise, as well as other health inequality issues, helped inform Obringer in her current fellowship in pediatric infectious disease at the University of Chicago Medical Center. “We talk a lot about medication compliance or why isn’t this kid coming to his appointments,” she says. “When you know it from the other side, you’re now asking yourself, ‘Is it because there’s a single mom who doesn’t have a car?’ or ‘Is this child always going to have asthma medicine handy when they’re playing?’ It gives you a totally different perspective when you’re seeing them in the doctor’s office.”

Obringer’s reach extends beyond just the kids at the summer camp—she’s known and respected by everyone who walks through the center’s doors. “To the children, she is the fun and creative teacher,” says Lara. “To the teens, she is the wise and cool mentor. To the adults, she is the hard worker and committed doctor.”

During the second summer of the camp, Loyola Academic Summer Program Integrating Resources for Excellence (ASPIRE) students volunteered to help. Then last summer, Stritch went further and helped fund a camp manager position, which was filled by Manuel Bernal, a current second-year medical student at Loyola. “It’s amazing to see how much it’s grown since the start,” Obringer says. “The first year we started out with a couple hundred bucks from University Ministry and people donating bats and balls and art supplies.”

Through her years at the Quinn Community Center, Obringer has formed lasting ties with the community. She knows the name of every child who flits in and out of the arts and crafts room; their parents greet her warmly. Those teenagers who helped form the original camp—some of whom are in college, others working full time—come to see her whenever they’re all in Maywood.

One connection ended up being lifelong. While volunteering in the soup kitchen at Quinn, Obringer befriended a mother with nine kids and another on the way. The woman was set to deliver at West Suburban Medical Center, where Obringer was doing a family medicine rotation. On a Saturday morning after finishing her rounds, Obringer saw the mother being pushed into the hospital by her oldest son and decided to stay with her during the delivery.

She became the godmother of the little boy—Joshua—who now shadows Obringer whenever she’s at the Quinn Community Center. It is one of the strongest bonds she’s made in Maywood. “I call it one of my God moments,” she says, “because you can’t make up that kind of coincidence and connection.”

Read more stories about members of the Stritch community working to address health disparities

Healthy aging at home

Healthy aging

A new joint study by Loyola faculty and community leaders aims to provide better resources to help aging residents of Edgewater remain in their homes and communities

By Maura Sullivan Hill

Can you guess the percentage of people aged 65 and older who live in skilled nursing homes? Lisa Skemp, PhD, RN, FGSA, FAAN, likes to ask her students and colleagues this question, and more often than not, people tend to overestimate. Guesses usually are in the range of 30 to 40 percent, but in reality the number is around 3 percent.

So where does this kind of misperception come from? Skemp, an expert in community health and gerontology and chair of the Department of Health Systems, Leadership, and Policy, says that negative representations of aging—from anti-aging trends in skincare to portrayals of older persons in pop culture—all play a role.

“There are issues in terms of understanding what aging is, and there tend to be ageist beliefs that young is good and old is past its time, or, by some, to be thrown away,” Skemp says. “But aging isn’t a problem, it is an option. Growing older is a positive, it means we are living longer. Now we want to do this in a healthy way grounded in dignity, respect, and inclusion of all citizens within the fabric of the communities in which we live.”

And as people live longer, more of them are doing it at home and in their own communities, as opposed to in nursing homes, assisted living, or other traditional care facilities. Skemp—with Monica Dillon, RN, director of the School of Nursing’s Loyola-Community Nursing Center; Alderman Harry Osterman’s office; collaborators from across the University; and other community partners—is leading a new study that will help promote healthy aging in the Edgewater neighborhood around Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus. The study uses a culturally informed healthy aging community assessment to understand how people in Edgewater are aging in the community and what resources they need to continue living in these neighborhoods as they age, from grocery stores to health care access to programming.

For over 35 years, as part of the educational mission of the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, the Community Nursing Center has offered community health nursing experiences for students to learn about community health and at-home nursing care and support for the older adults in the Edgewater, Rogers Park, and Uptown neighborhoods. The Community Nursing Center has helped citizens of all ages to access essential health services, in particular for those who cannot afford them.

Skemp’s study aims to learn from older adults and other citizens how elders acquire the things they need to age well in community. Additionally, the study aims to facilitate sustainable partnerships with Loyola to address these needs.

“This first phase is a community context study,” says Skemp. “This means that we are essentially listening to and observing how older adults acquire the things they need to age well in community. Additionally, we aim to partner with key community members and organizations. The idea is to partner with key community members to best help everyone build capacity within the community for health and aging well.”

They are currently in the start up research phase, where they are gathering data from the community through letting key community members know about the project, undertaking a community assessment, interviews, observations and developing a community advisory board.

The team will also hire and train community members to assist with some of the research. Once the interdisciplinary team and community advisory board has enough information to make recommendations, the goal is to develop joint programs and partnerships between Loyola and the community that will help facilitate aging.

Colleagues and their students are engaged in this work. “I am a nurse ethnographer, so I use anthropological methods and make nursing decisions in a culturally informed way,” Skemp says. “We’re also working with the Health Sciences Division, the Department of Computer Science, the Quinlan School of Business, Institute for Transformative Interprofessional Education, Public Health, Dietetics, Health Systems Management, Exercise Science, and the Center for Urban Research and Learning.”

The computer scientists on the research team are developing an app for data collection. The goal is that the culturally informed model, once refined and tested, can be upscaled to other communities. Business students, including senior Sezim Zamirbekova, are working on analyzing the data, as well as the financial component of any future programs the research team might propose.

“It is a collaborative, community-wide effort aiming at building relationships with and between community institutions and leaders,” says Zamirbekova, a business information systems major who is also on the pre-medicine track. “Resources and opportunities abound; so how do we use them in such a way as to maximize well-being for the community’s elders?”

The surprising blessings of breast cancer


Alumna Kay Metres (BA ’87) offers the insights she gained from her battle with, and recovery from, breast cancer

By Lauren Krause (BA ’10)

‌Dr. Kay Metres (BA ’87) struggled with breast cancer, and through her struggle, she found the words to offer to women encountering a similar situation. Metres, a graduate of Loyola’s Institute of Pastoral Studies, shared the insights she learned in her recent book, After the Fear Comes the Gifts: Breast Cancer’s Nine Surprising Blessings (ACTA). The book presents an informal but insightful look into the mental and physical toll of pain and fear that comes with a breast cancer diagnosis. We asked Metres to share a few bits of her wisdom.

What advice do you have for someone recently diagnosed with breast cancer?

I would say, "My sister, this isn't easy. You are probably scared. Maybe also mad and sad. And baffled: How did this happen? I live such a healthy life."

All of these feelings make perfect sense. Honor them. Be as mad as you need to be.

Find someone you trust who will listen. Don't get ahead of yourself, worrying about the "what ifs." Slow down. Breathe. If it helps you, and only if it helps you, read about your particular kind of breast cancer. There are about 10 of them, all with different treatment protocols. If you want to get a second opinion, get one. 

Most importantly, be gentle with yourself. Have self-compassion. Treat yourself the way you would treat someone you dearly love. And have faith that you will get through this.

Do you have any tips for the family and friends of someone with breast cancer?

First, remember that this is about her. She has the right to call all the shots: to tell people or not, to look it up online or not, to get a second opinion or not. Don't pressure her. Don't tell everyone unless she gives you her permission. Listen to her carefully. She is on a journey with many twists and turns in the road. She needs you for the long haul.

That means you have to handle your own anxiety. Pray, exercise, talk to someone who can keep a confidence. Be gentle with yourself. You are scared. It makes sense. You may know that 40,000 American women die of this disease each year, but do you also know that 230,000 recover?

Support her in the ways she wants to be supported—and get the help you need for yourself.

What in your own journey through breast cancer inspired you to write this book?

I wrote this book because I realized that having breast cancer transformed me in very positive ways. As I began to recover, I noticed that small things didn't bother me as much. I laughed more. I reached out to others more. I didn't mind being wrong as much as I used to. I appreciated the strength of my body more. I became a better "sister" to the women I know. I was better able to surrender control and to ask for help.

The book deals with these changes and many others. Actually, any adversity probably creates growth. However, a frightening diagnosis has unique characteristics, and I wanted to share how it affected me and may affect others. I wanted to be a comfort to other women. 


Good investments

Speers investing

Investing your money in line with your morals can make a real difference in the world—and still benefit your bottom line

By Scott Alessi

Early in his career as a financial advisor, Brian K. Speers (JD ’93) recalls meeting with a couple who expressed a unique concern about their investments. Rather than asking about profits, the couple wanted to be sure that their money wasn’t going to support products that they were morally opposed to, such as alcohol and tobacco. At the time, Speers says, it was an unusual request.

“Twenty-five years ago, most people said, ‘I want to make money,’” says Speers, managing director – wealth management, senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch and a member of Loyola's Board of Trustees. “But over time, people have looked more and more at what the companies inside their portfolios are doing.”

For Speers, who was recently named to Barron’s list of America’s Top 1,200 Financial Advisors, the growing concern among investors about where their money is going has become a key part of his work. As an expert in the area of impact investing, Speers shared a few tips on how socially conscious investors can get the most out of their money.

What is impact investing?

The big umbrella here is socially conscious investing, and this is a broad concept that can be broken down into two areas. One would be socially responsible investing, where you don’t want to buy into a company that is against what you believe in—a company that makes firearms, for example. The other, impact investing, goes a little bit further. In impact investing you’re looking to invest in companies or projects that potentially can create a positive economic, social, or environmental outcome. In short, this is about either “do no harm” (socially responsible investing) or “make a difference” (impact investing). What’s important is that people are looking at more than just the profit and loss statement when they make an investment. They are looking at how these companies align with their underlying values, beliefs, and desires for the future for the world.

Is it difficult to find companies that fully align with an investor’s values?

This gets to the gray area of the topic. You can say you only want to invest in companies that are developing sustainable energy, and that’s a great idea. But you can’t say you’re just going to invest in a company that has no carbon footprint because a lot of times the companies that are effectuating change have all sorts of different businesses.

Let me give you an example. There is an electric and gas utility company that is probably one of the largest producers of solar and wind electricity in the United States. They have made a huge commitment to sustainable and green energy. However, this is a large utility company that also generates power using natural gas and nuclear energy. So it is not as easy as saying, “I want to effectuate a change by investing in a green company.” You may have to say, “How far am I willing to go to get this done?”

How can an investor navigate those complex issues?

The first thing you have to do is figure out who you are and what you believe in. If you say you want to make a positive change, each person is going to have a different view of what that means. So understanding your values and understanding the investing world as a whole is very important so you can get an idea of what changes you are hoping to effectuate.

The other important thing is monitoring the company—what is it doing, what products is it putting out, what research and development is it doing? I think it is also very important to look at the management team and the board of directors. Ask yourself what they have done over their careers, what they have done in other areas of the business world, and how closely attuned their values are to yours.

Can these kinds of investments still yield good returns?

Effectuating change in society can be extremely profitable and provide clients with incredibly good returns. These aren’t mutually exclusive ideas.

Obviously the financial basics are the financial basics. We want to buy companies that are growing their earnings. But I think if you are careful, or if your advisor is careful, you can accomplish both goals: get great returns and effectuate changes in society while upholding your values.

But I can’t stress enough how important capital is and how important profits are. A company may be 100 percent aligned with your values, but if they don’t have the capital or ongoing funding to actually get to the end result, they may not be around in five or 10 years. That’s why you have to be so careful when investing in this area to have a clear idea of what your values are and how you can put those into practice without losing your money.

Can you give an example of the kind of company a socially conscious investor might consider?

One of the investments we’ve made for our clients is with a major global food company. About two years ago they made a decision to invest about $1 billion in finding ways to make foods that have less sugar, less fat, less salt—all the things people are concerned about to make sure they’re eating right. This company put the money into research and development and they’ve found a way to make chocolate with 40 percent less sugar. So if you are concerned with changing the way we consume food, here is a company that is doing that.

Now this is one of the largest global food companies, so they may also be putting products out on the market that your moral compass isn’t entirely aligned with. But who else could come up with a billion dollars to develop something like this? It is oftentimes the larger companies in these industries that have the capital to invest in new ideas that can be important for change to our society.

Can one person’s investment choices make a difference?

When you buy a share of stock you have a vote to cause change at the company. I know people say, “I own one share of stock so my vote doesn’t matter,” but it does. You can vote for the board of directors members that are aligned with your values. You can vote against decisions the company may be proposing that you don’t think are correct not only for the company’s future but society’s future. And the ultimate vote is that you can take your money out of that company.

People can also be a lot more vocal today through social media to influence other investors, so if a company is not doing the right things and it is publicized very quickly, they are going to see a flow of money out of their company. And corporate America doesn’t exist to go out of business, so I think that company would change very quickly.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to try impact investing?

I would say you have to do three things: have a moral compass and know what your values are, know how much you are willing to give and take on certain issues, and treat your investment as a vote to make sure the company stays in line with your values. Then you find a company that also meets all of the quantitative things—growing their earnings, growing their cash flow, etc.—that also matches your set of values. I firmly believe that if you do this correctly, you can not only make a good profit but improve society in fundamental ways.

Keeping the peace

police reform

Greater police accountability can improve relations between law enforcement and the people they serve

By Maura Sullivan-Hill

Stephen Rushin is a fan of unlikely combinations. He’s the son of a police chief and an expert on police reform. He earned a law degree, then decided to study for a PhD in criminology and sociology. It’s these opposite—yet complementary—perspectives that make Rushin, who joined the School of Law as an assistant professor in July, a leader in the national conversation on police reform and accountability.

Because he grew up in a police household, Rushin knows what life is like for officers in the field. And Rushin says his social science training puts him in the role of an unbiased investigator. This fall, Rushin will teach a course at Loyola on police accountability. He also recently published his first book, Federal Intervention in American Police Departments, on the role of the U.S. Department of Justice in regulating police departments. He took a break from getting settled in Chicago to share a few thoughts on the state of policing in his new home city.

How will working in Chicago impact your research?

Chicago is a fascinating laboratory, a city that both is in need of some basic reforms in terms of police accountability and that is also battling serious crime. That tension between the need to protect the constitutional rights of citizens and the need for police to engage in proactive policing that may reduce crime is fascinating to see play out in your own backyard.

Last spring, the Chicago Police Department announced a new policy that limits the use of force. What do you think of these changes?

I think it’s a definite improvement and is more consistent with what you see across the country. The focus on de-escalation is important, and long overdue. It’s something we recognize as a best practice for police departments to have in their use of force policy. It’s also good to see that they elaborated on what is considered potentially deadly force to include a larger amount of behaviors.

The fact that the policy was developed through a collaborative process is great—that is something that you need to have for police reform to be successful. You need community stakeholders represented, and you also want to have officers represented to make sure you are handing down a fair and equitable policy that they are willing to accept.

How do you approach this issue as someone who advocates for reform but is also the son of a police officer?

Supporting reforms designed to protect constitutional rights does not make you anti-police or anti-law and order. I think you can both support the need for police to have basic accountability mechanisms in place while also being pro-police.

I think we often get pulled into this “you’re either with us or against us” kind of perspective. Police officers themselves benefit from basic accountability mechanisms. It helps us sort out the small number of officers who are responsible for a large portion of misconduct. Being able to hold those officers accountable for this misconduct improves the image of the rest of the officers—it helps improve the relationship between the police department and the people that they serve.

I can recognize that the police have difficult, dangerous jobs and deserve our respect and admiration. But I can also recognize that, when the small cohort of officers that engage in more misconduct than others do something really bad, we need to have a system that can hold them accountable.

And justice for all

prolaw alumni

The Supreme Court of Pakistan located in Islamabad, Pakistan

PROLAW alumni are fighting to improve law and order around the globe

By Jake Smith

Anyone who thinks ‘making the world a better place’ sounds like a romantic, utopian goal should take a look at Zeeshan Ali Tahir’s (LLM ’15) resume. Tahir has advocated for children’s access to health care alongside a humanitarian organization. He’s helped the German government develop a policy for gender-responsive policing. His current role is with the Asia Foundation in his home country of Pakistan, where he recently wrote a proposal for a national framework of alternative dispute resolution, or ADR—processes through which parties can settle legal disputes without resorting to costly litigation.

“ADR mechanisms are very famous all over the world. But in Pakistan we do not have any concept of ADR,” he says. “So I proposed starting up ADR centers in different districts of two provinces.”

Tahir can recall the precise details of countless projects that he’s worked on over the last half decade as a rule-of-law advisor. But he wasn’t always at the center of social change. In 2012, he was working as a communications officer for an international NGO. Yet Tahir, who already had a law degree, felt unsatisfied merely talking about improving Pakistani society.

The legal expert in him saw opportunities for progress, and he wanted to help drive that progress, so he applied to Loyola’s PROLAW program in 2012. “This is what I’d been waiting to do,” he says.

A pragmatic approach

A master of laws (LLM) program based at the John Felice Rome Center, PROLAW equips lawyers with the practical skills they need to foster change by improving rule of law in developing countries. More than 100 legal professionals from 44 countries have graduated from the program since it launched in 2011. (A similar program for those without law degrees will debut in fall of 2017.) Since rule of law plays an important role in international business, companies like AT&T support PROLAW by funding scholarships for students from countries that are critical to specific business units. For example, AT&T funds PROLAW scholarships for students from Mexico because improving and expanding its mobile internet service in Mexico is currently a top priority. 

Tahir says he was drawn to PROLAW because of its pragmatic approach. Rather than read about international protocols in the abstract, he wanted to critically analyze how developing nations around the world were addressing real problems, from feeble economic institutions to genital mutilation. “They actually gave us a lot of case studies to go through,” says Tahir.

Today, that sort of analytical thinking serves him well on the job. For instance, he spent several months working with a coalition of legal organizations called Insaf Network Pakistan. Insaf had received funding to improve the country’s judicial system but it was not clear how that money could best be used. Tahir proposed they conduct a survey to find out what was keeping Pakistanis from using the courts. “And it came out that most of the people who wanted to go to the courts did not know about the mechanisms available,” he says.

Although the Pakistani government offered free legal aid to its poor and marginalized populations, it appeared that precious few of those individuals were aware of it. Tahir saw a clear opportunity for his team to get the word out.

“We designed a massive campaign of sending the key messages out to the masses,” he says. With financial support from Pakistan’s law and justice commission, they advertised the program on TV, radio, and newspapers. They even printed messages on utility bills, directing people to where they could find free legal help.

But keeping such programs afloat can be a challenge in developing nations, where political and economic instability throw wrenches into well-laid plans.

Working for change

Since graduating from the PROLAW program, Lilian Orieko (LLM ’16) has been serving as a legal assistant with the U.S Department of Justice in her home country of Kenya, coordinating efforts to fight transnational crime and terrorism alongside government officials, judges, and attorneys across East Africa. In the role, Orieko helps ensure that the programs her office oversees can weather drastic administrative and financial tumult.

“It’s something I was taught in program design at PROLAW, about theory of change,” she says. “What happens when a project you’re working on seems to be collapsing because of one thing or another? How do you make sure that the project is sustainable?”

Both she and Tahir can point to specific ways that they’ve made their own countries safer and more just. Yet they’re no starry-eyed dreamers. As far as Tahir is concerned, making one’s community a better place comes down to hard knowledge and plenty of practice. “If you talk about touching the real-life stories and ameliorating human rights,” he says, “it’s very important to have hands-on experience and exposure in terms of how the programs work.”

Seeing crime in a new light

Lurigio crime

Loyola faculty member Arthur J. Lurigio has become a leading expert on crime in communities and the suffering experienced by victims long after the fact. His own experience of being robbed at gunpoint during his college years helped to shape his understanding of the trauma victims experience. (Photo: Heather Eidson)

Being robbed at gunpoint opened my eyes to one of the most critical needs in our response to crime: healing the lasting emotional wounds experienced by victims

By Arthur J. Lurigio (PhD ’84), Professor of Criminal Justice and Psychology

On a sultry evening in the summer after I completed my freshman year of college, I was the victim of an aggravated robbery. It was a Tuesday night—July 17, 1973, to be exact—and the day’s temperature remained oppressive long after the sun had set. I was on the walkway on the south side of my parents’ home, where I had played blissfully as a child, tossing a baseball and riding my bike back and forth. Until that day I’d had wonderful memories of that place and felt utterly safe there. Then a five-minute episode permanently changed my perception.

My perpetrators ran up to me in the dark gangway. By the time I heard the footsteps, the guns were already pointed at me. One of the gunmen pressed the barrel of his gun flush against my temple, and the weapon felt hard and cold on my sweaty forehead. Early studies of eyewitness memory have found that robbery victims concentrate more on the guns than the faces of the robbers, and that was true for me; I have a clear memory of the .38-caliber revolvers but only a vague memory of the perpetrators.

Robberies develop instantaneously, and the victim has no time to prepare for the shocking violation of their person. In my case, it all felt surreal. My sympathetic nervous system, which prepares the body for a fight or flight or freeze response to perceived threats to safety, went into high gear. Though I felt a sense of unreality about what was transpiring outside of me, I had a keen sense of awareness of what was transpiring inside—rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, shallow breathing.

My options were limited. I was wedged into a corner with a gate against my side and a building at my back: no flight. My attackers were tall, muscular men with guns pointed at my head: no fight. With only one option left, I froze. The assailants screamed repeatedly at me in rapid succession: “Get your hands up!” One of them snatched my watch off my wrist. The other took my ring—a keepsake that was worth little, but had been my father’s as a young man. I wore it every day to feel close to him. They emptied my pockets of two dollars and took my wallet, which had nothing of value (no credit cards) but contained my driver’s license and school ID card, which later cost hours of effort to replace.

Robbery is the quintessential urban crime, involving an unprovoked surprise attack on an innocent victim by strangers. In 9 out of 10 cases, men are the perpetrators. They generally are young, with histories of violent crime and addiction. Unlike the perpetrators of theft and burglary, who take property by stealth and have no contact with victims, robbery offenders insert themselves immediately into their victims’ personal space. They stalk and pounce in a lightning-quick attack, which renders most victims shocked and disorientated.

The prospect of a robbery is fear-inducing, and keeps many people, especially older residents, indoors at night. In many cases, like that of my own victimization, the features of a robbery constitute a serious and potentially physically or psychologically harmful experience. And the presence of guns during the commission of a crime, as well as the victim’s belief that his or her life is in peril, both strongly increase the likelihood that the victim will suffer psychological symptoms in the aftermath of a crime.

My risk as a potential robbery victim was moderate. I was a college student with a 4.0 GPA whose friends were all either in college or the workforce. I had never been in trouble at school or with the police, and my parents’ home was in a low-crime neighborhood. Even so, I was a young man (a high-risk group for violent crime) and I was out after midnight (a high-risk time). Moreover, Chicago was at the surging front edge of a 25-year crime wave. In the year I was robbed, 6,500 suspects were arrested for robbery, and more than 23,000 robberies were reported in Chicago. The following year, Chicago recorded the highest number of homicides in the city’s history: 970.

For me, the most stressful aspect of the incident came when the assailants insisted on me letting them into my parents’ home. Presumably, and expectedly, they were frustrated with their meager take: two dollars, an empty wallet, and an inexpensive watch and ring. I surmised that the robbers were calculating actors, and I remained outwardly composed but inwardly roiled as I informed them of the costs and benefits of home invasion. In so many words, my story was that the residents of the home—my mom, dad, aunt, and uncle—owned nothing of value (only partly true, as I grew up wanting nothing). I impressed on them that the benefits of a break-in would be low. I also told the robbers my father had a loaded gun at his bedside (partially true, as my father had my great-grandfather’s pistol somewhere in the house, probably unloaded) and was a decorated marksman in the army and willing to shoot to protect his family (completely true). So the risks of a break-in would be high. I was relieved when they told me to walk to the alley and wait a few minutes before entering the house. I was left physically—but not emotionally—unharmed.

Though they never entered the house, the robbers’ violation of my home—a space where fewer than 20 percent of all robberies take place—transformed a safe and familiar haven to a place corrupted by a sense of loss and violation. Those same physiological responses triggered by the nervous system to transform us into fiercer combatants or faster runners in the face of danger can also help to sear traumatic memories into our brains, forcing us to remember horrible events so we can avoid them in the future. For me, the crime was something that haunted me. But also served as an inspiration for my life’s work.

The aftermath

Despite the serious nature of robberies, only 60 percent are reported to the police nationwide. Even fewer are reported in the most violent communities, where most robberies are committed. Fear of offender retaliation and the belief that the police will do nothing to solve the crimes are two of the many reasons these crimes are often unreported.

When I entered my house after the robbery, I recounted the incident to my family. My mother and aunt were quite shaken but supportive, my uncle was quiet, and my dad was seething. He did have my great-grandfather’s gun, and he took it out into the street. But the offenders were long gone. My dad quickly realized the futility of his manhunt and returned home, still seething. We called the police, and after a long wait they came. I was struck by the officers’ nonchalance, failing to comprehend that I was not a special case—merely one of 23,000 robbery victims that year. I wanted the officers to be outraged; instead, they were businesslike. They told us that the young men had been seen in the neighborhood attempting to break into garages and cars. I described what ensued, and they left with no promises.

I had trouble sleeping that night, and for several nights thereafter. For weeks—long into the fall, when I started school again—I had reoccurring and intrusive thoughts about the experience. I was anxious in the walkway and avoided the spot where the crime transpired, especially at night. Simply put, I experienced the classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which first appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980 but had long been referenced in the clinical case histories of returning war veterans and was later used to explicate the emotional turmoil suffered by victims of rape, natural disasters, and severe accidents. My symptoms gradually remitted, but the trauma sparked an abiding curiosity that defined some of my earliest intellectual pursuits.

As the attitude of the police officers who visited my house showed, criminal victimization is common in the United States. Each year, tens of millions of Americans become victims of violent, property, and other types of crime. Nonetheless, relatively little is known about the fluctuating nature of criminal victimization, which has waxed and waned since the first systematic collection of crime data. Knowledge about crime types and trends can support the development of solutions and the evaluation of their effectiveness, but aggregate crime data reflect nothing about the considerable and lifelong pain and suffering of crime victims and their loved ones.

Most people ignore crime-related statistics; still, they pay close attention to vividly portrayed incidents of crimes on the local news. What these stories typically fail to communicate is that the end of a crime incident is usually only the beginning of victim suffering.

Dealing with trauma

The trauma of violent victimization changes people’s thoughts, feelings, perceptions, behaviors, and self-images. Victims of serious crime view the chronology of their lives as falling into two periods: “before the crime” and “after the crime.”

I learned a lot from my robbery. In retrospect, I believe the awful encounter implicitly influenced the course of my research. Ten years after the incident, I was a junior faculty member at Northwestern University, where I became interested in studying criminal victimization. I applied my training as a psychologist to help implement and evaluate crime victim service programs and to train police officers to be more sensitive and responsive to crime victims. I studied victims of robbery, burglary, and battery to identify the predictors of symptoms in the aftermath of victimization, yet until I wrote this article, I never made a direct connection between my own victimization and my intellectual pursuits, which of course were also a function of many other factors.

Unexpectedly, my post-victimization experiences aligned with the results of my studies involving hundreds of crime victims. For example, nobody blamed me for my victimization. Thus, I found it easier to refrain from blaming myself.

Self-blame is a highly significant predictor of symptoms in the aftermath of crime. Victims who think they were attacked due to flaws in their judgment or character have a difficult time coping with their trauma. They struggle with feelings of guilt and low self-esteem, which exacerbate their depression and anxiety. In my counseling of crime victims and developing programs to address their emotional needs, I underscored the importance of reducing self-blame. I shifted thoughts of self-blame and eventually redirected my cognitions to the real onus of the crime: the offenders.

At first, I was enraged at them. I later became inquisitive: Who are they? Where did they grow up? What drove them to violence? Did they feel any empathy toward their victims? I ask these same questions today in my research with young men living in Chicago’s most violent communities.

In the days and weeks after the crime, I distracted myself by thinking about how the robbery could have been much worse. As my research later showed, I was engaging in a therapeutic exercise known as cognitive reframing or downward comparisons. The incident was quite stressful and disruptive. Notwithstanding, I was alive and uninjured. I had lost little. My cheap watch was replaceable, and my dad gave me a new ring that I treasure. Most important, my family was safe.

People who suffer from a variety of tragedies cope more effectively if they think about what did not happen but could have. For example, tornado victims who express relief because no one was injured even though their homes were leveled are engaging in a downward comparison. Victims of violent crime should be encouraged to think about worst-case scenarios, which can help them gain a healthier perspective. A serious caveat: spending too much time vividly imaging more horrific consequences can backfire, worsening anxiety and sleep problems. The trick is to consider what actually happened as an event with ultimately good outcomes, all things considered. Occasional fantasies of my assailants pulling the trigger made me panicky; intrusive thoughts were painful and unavoidable in the days after.

To lessen the occurrence of these visualizations, I used thought stoppage and replacement. I turned to meditation, which I practiced between classes. I focused on what I could learn from the event. Likewise, victims often glean inspiration and meaning from their losses and injuries. Veterans who lose a leg in battle run marathons with a prosthesis and relish a great sense of accomplishment and a reconstituted self-image.

Despite my initial belief that I had little control over my fate, I began to view the world and myself in more positive ways. I realized that my negotiating calmly with the robbers indicated that I indeed had control in the situation. They did not harm me or force their way into my house. Maybe my talking with them had little influence over their behavior. It did not matter, though, because I believed it did, and that belief empowered me. I gained confidence in my capacity to change people, which is a good foundation for a budding psychologist.

The best victim service programs are targeted to the specific needs of crime victims, which can vary greatly depending on the nature and seriousness of their victimization and the extent of their physical injuries, medical costs, psychological harm, and property loss. Some victims need their locks replaced or their windows boarded up after a burglary. Others need help paying the bills for medical and rehabilitative procedures following severe injuries. Still others, like me, can benefit from short-term therapy, or crisis management, which would have probably helped me cope more effectively after the crime.

Immediate treatment in the aftermath of violent crime can forestall the eruption of full-blown symptoms of PTSD largely through the techniques described above, which fall under the rubric of cognitive behavioral therapy. However, shooting and sexual violence victims require longer-term services, and might not ever fully recover from their physical and emotional injuries.

Crime and communities

A critical mass of victimizations in a neighborhood alters the character of the community itself. Law-abiding residents with middle-class financial resources and sensibilities are the first to move out. Those who remain stop socializing in public places. Less sidewalk traffic results in fewer opportunities to communicate with neighbors, and fewer people on the street makes the streets more dangerous, since there is no one to report illegal or disorderly activities. The social fabric of the neighborhood—its solidarity, community identity, and collective efficacy—begins to erode and finally tears altogether, fostering more decay, decline, and neglect. People stop shopping at local stores, declining numbers of customers cause business closures. As the social structure begins to crumble, so, too, does the economic structure.

For decades, and particularly since the 1960s, sections of Chicago’s West and South Sides have been stuck in a crime-fueled cycle of decay. But while current statistics seem alarming, they are much lower than they were in decades past. As I approach the 44th anniversary of my own victimization, violent crime in the United States as a whole is relatively low compared with the unprecedented levels seen in the 1970s through the mid-1990s. But Chicago is still grappling with shootings and murders every day.

The effects of a single serious crime often spread from victims to their partners, family members, neighbors, friends, fellow students, and co-workers. Through this process, known as vicarious victimization, simply hearing about the victimization of others can make people feel more vulnerable. The closer direct or indirect witnesses are to victims, the more the witnesses begin to fear crime, and the more their fear spreads to others. Thus, although violent crime has been decreasing steadily for the past 25 years, fear of crime has not declined at the same rate. This is largely due to the media’s unrelenting coverage of crime, especially the most violent, unexpected, and horrific episodes.

The solutions to violence are complicated, and require fundamental changes in the socioeconomic status and belief systems of young men living in the city’s poorest communities. My own robbery experience enhanced my compassion for the suffering of crime victims. But the needs of those victims are too often overlooked in the sensational crime stories that make the news. A better understanding of how to help victims in the months and years after a crime can go a long way in helping them heal—and in strengthening our communities.

Psychologist, professor, and senior associate dean for faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences Arthur J. Lurigio (PhD '84) is a leading criminal justice expert who has been quoted in numerous local, national, and international news outlets. He has served as Faculty Scholar and Master Researcher of the College of Arts and Sciences, received the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Career Award, and served as president of the Illinois Academy of Criminology for three years, where he remains a vital contributor.

First class

Arrupe first graduates

Carlos Luna (above), a member of Arrupe College's first graduating class, used his success at Arrupe as a springboard to get to Georgetown University, where he will pursue his bachelor's degree. Other graduates, like Ramatoulaye Diallo (below), will be continuing their education at Loyola after getting help from Arrupe in making the transition from high school to a four-year university. (Photos: Natalie Battaglia)

Two years ago, Arrupe College welcomed a group of students to be the pioneers of a new model in Jesuit education. Now, those students are ready to take their education to the next level.

By Anna Gaynor

Carlos Luna got the e-mail from Georgetown University in May. He was just beginning to look ahead to his final summer classes at Arrupe College, followed by graduation in August, and then the transfer to a four-year Chicago university in the fall. But then, Georgetown reached out to him, and all of his plans changed. “Honestly, I didn’t expect to be accepted into Georgetown,” he says. “I still applied because people pushed me to. And with that acceptance, a new opportunity came. I visited campus, and in the end, I decided to go.”

Luna is a member of the first graduating class of Arrupe, Loyola’s two-year associate’s degree program created to provide a rigorous liberal arts education to motivated students with limited financial resources and an interest in attending a four-year institution. In 2015, Luna was among nearly 160 Chicago teenagers who started taking classes on Loyola’s Water Tower Campus. And in August, more than 100 of those students crossed the stage at Arrupe’s first commencement ceremony. (See photos of Arrupe's commencement.)

“I’m grateful particularly to this group of graduates because they took a risk to pioneer this with us,” says Father Steve Katsouros, S.J., dean and executive director of Arrupe.

Arrupe offers small class sizes, one-on-one time with faculty and advisors, and the resources to thrive and earn an associate’s degree. In his two years at Arrupe, Luna became involved in student government, started the Dreamers and Allies Student Organization, and was awarded Loyola’s President’s Medallion. For him, Arrupe provided the chance to get on the college path he always aspired to. When in high school, Luna originally focused on applying to schools outside of Chicago, primarily the East Coast.

“It was decision after decision of being denied or wait-listed, so that was really tough on me,” he says. But now he will make the move from Chicago to Washington, DC, with plans to major in government and minor in either Mandarin Chinese or philosophy. “What I had hoped for in the beginning,” Luna says, “it’s come true.”

A dream realized

Arrupe College was a last-minute decision for Ramatoulaye Diallo. Originally from the West African country Mauritania, Diallo spent some time living in Paris before moving to Chicago with her mother in 2012. In high school, she decided she wanted to go to Loyola after graduation, but then her ACT score wasn’t quite high enough. “We share the same values—care for self, others, and community,” Diallo says of Loyola.

When she didn’t get in, she gave up on applying to schools. “In my head, I was just going to go back home and study,” she says. “And then my advisor calls me one day and says, ‘have you heard of Arrupe?’”

Diallo’s advisor explained Arrupe was part of Loyola, that she’d be a part of the first class, and she might be able to transfer to Loyola after graduating. That call came at the end of her senior year. Now, just over two years later, Diallo is planning the move into Bellarmine Hall on the Lake Shore Campus with four of her Arrupe classmates. And like many of her fellow Arrupe graduates, Diallo will be receiving a continuum scholarship from Loyola to cover the costs of her tuition and housing. “I can’t stress it enough—it helps a whole lot,” she says.

Diallo will be studying biology. Besides the fact that she loves science and anatomy, the program gives her the opportunity to decide what profession she might choose: nurse, physician assistant, researcher at a hospital—and if she goes big—maybe a doctor.

“I just hope that it’s really the beginning of something new and something important,” Diallo says. “I don’t know what I’ll accomplish with a biology degree, but I know it will eventually lead me to something great, and maybe possibly taking the MCAT and going to med school—eventually, eventually that will happen one day, Insha’Allah (God willing).”

A little help from her friends

Jacky Cruz is going from one lakeside school to another. Granted, Lake Mendota is a little smaller than Lake Michigan, but still, the University of Wisconsin-Madison will be her new home come fall. Going from a small college to a large state university will be quite a transition, but like many of her classmates, Cruz has been able to take advantage of the support network Arrupe offers. “We were always taught: If you have a question, just ask it,” says Cruz. “If you need help, just ask for help. I have not met a professor who has said, ‘no, I don’t have time, go somewhere else.’ They’re always there for you. They always make time.”

It’s something that Katsouros wanted built into the environment at Arrupe. While many community college students might meet with their advisor once during their college career, Arrupe students never have to look far for help. “The key feature of our success here in terms of retention and graduation rates has to do with my colleagues, and particularly how our faculty members serve as advisors,” says Katsouros. “Our style of advising is cura personalis oriented. They meet with their advisors several times during the course of the semester. The faculty meet once a week to discuss the students.”

That community support became more urgent when Cruz’s cousin was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year. She was taking four classes and had a research project coming up. Her philosophy instructor, Minerva Ahumada, gave her an extension on a paper and also offered a kind ear. “We talked about that (first), and then about the research paper,” Cruz says. “She’s who I would go to, who I always go to if I need help for anything—with school or my own life.”

While the transition from Arrupe to a four-year university may seem a bit daunting, UW-M will be helping to make it easier. Cruz will not only be receiving in-state tuition, she won’t have to stay an additional semester or year, which is not often the case for transfers at other schools. And she’s already looking beyond college to a possible career in nursing, specifically working with pregnant women and possibly becoming an OB/GYN one day. “I’ve always wanted to do something with just helping and aiding people,” she says.

Taking the next step

When Blanca Rodriguez’s photo was on the cover of Loyola magazine almost two years ago, she said she planned to major in psychology after she graduated from Arrupe. It isn’t much of a surprise that now she’ll be doing just that. But Rodriguez does say she was surprised by some aspects of her time at Arrupe. “I thought it was just going to be going to school and going home and doing homework, but it wasn’t like that,” she says. “It was talking to professors, staying 15 minutes after class just to talk about Dr. Minerva Ahumada’s wedding, or hanging out with my friends in the lounge.”

While other schools say they’re like a small family, Rodriguez points out that Arrupe actually is a small family. Freshmen and sophomores talk to each other, everyone knows everyone else, and members of this graduating class are helping those now entering Arrupe. Rodriguez served as vice president of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the honors society for two-year schools. She feels like a big sister to fellow students, letting them know that if they put in the work, they can accomplish something more. “I feel it’s good to try to push people further to their fullest potential, and I feel that as a PTK leader that’s what I’m able to do.”

Along with psychology, Rodriguez is planning to minor in music when she heads to Dominican University. She wants to work in musical therapy. She herself picked up the ukulele last year and finds playing can be a stress reliever.

Katsouros is encouraged by how much students like Rodriguez have grown at Arrupe, and how they’ve embraced the Jesuit mission and will now carry it with them as they leave. “We’re very invested in these students, in who they are, in their successes, and also with what they’ve brought to us,” Katsouros says. “I think that they are really impacting Jesuit higher education. They’re teaching us how to deliver this curriculum to a new and very important demographic, one that’s going to have a huge impact on cities like Chicago and the communities like the neighborhoods that our students come from.”

For Rodriguez, she feels like Arrupe gave her the encouragement and support she needed, making it possible for her to graduate and get a full ride to attend a four-year university. “I feel like Arrupe has given us that chance,” she says. “You can do it—it doesn’t matter where you come from, what culture you are from, or what your background is. You can go to whatever school you want to and succeed wherever you want to go.”  

From refugee to Rambler


Alma Begicevic (BA '98) stands on the shore of Lake Michigan, where she first arrived as a refugee from Sarajevo in 1994. Now Begicevic has returned to the Lake Shore Campus to teach in the Department of Sociology. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

I survived the war in Bosnia, left behind my homeland, and started a new life in America. But that was only the beginning.

By Alma Begicevic (BA '98)

Walking onto Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus for the first time in 1995, I remember turning to my friend Tom, a member of a nearby Episcopal church who had been helping my family adjust to our new life in America, and saying, “I want to study here.” At the time I didn’t know much about the University besides the fact that it was close to where I lived. But the campus was calming, and I knew this is where I belonged.

I’d found myself in Chicago a year earlier as a refugee. Though I was young at the time, my experience of living in the center of the Bosnian War had left me feeling much older. Living in Sarajevo, I had studied fashion and majored in textile design, learned French, worked as a radio journalist, and survived the war. On February 5, 1994—only a month before we arrived in Chicago—my father was seriously injured in the Markale massacre when Serbs dropped mortars in the largest open marketplace in Sarajevo, killing almost 70 people and injuring 200. I was on an assignment that day when the television aired graphic images of the dismembered body parts.

When I found out my father was among the critically wounded, we had only a day to pack our things and leave the country. One of my father’s legs had already been amputated by French military doctors at the NATO base in Sarajevo, and the other was severely damaged by the mortar. Doctors explained to me in French that my father had suffered a terrible infection, his condition was critical, and he may not survive. His only chance was to leave the country to receive proper medical treatment. U.S. President Bill Clinton had ordered an emergency humanitarian intervention, and we were airlifted first to the closest military base in Europe, then to the United States.

A new beginning
Being a refugee means leaving home simply to stay alive. Such dislocation is not intentional nor is it planned. It is not driven by a rational choice to start a new life, the pursuit of happiness, or the American dream. It is not driven by a desire to obtain wealth, become successful, or get an education. In my case, the choice to leave home in the midst of war was motivated only by the desire to save my father’s life.

My mom was in shock, and she did not fully understand what was happening. My younger sister, an engineering student, was the only one of us who spoke English and could communicate on behalf of the family, but she was shy and wished to be left alone. My father was hospitalized, and his treatment would continue for many years. None of us had wanted to leave home, but we agreed that our only hope was to stick together.

Coming to Chicago meant feeling displaced, estranged, alienated; it was like being asked to play a role in a movie without ever being given the script. In Sarajevo, I was a third-year college student double-majoring in sociology and journalism. I had experience as a journalist reporting on the war. I’d spoken French since I was 9 years old. In America, however, none of this mattered—it was as if my credentials did not count.

That brings me back to the day I first stood on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus. Loyola represented hope for a much needed break from our harsh reality, an escape from my past. Little did I know the University had a mission of social justice that matched my own, along with faculty eager to make a difference.

Before I could enroll in a degree program, I first had to study the English language. I took out a loan to pay for a semester of intensive language courses including speech and pronunciation, writing, and reading. We read newspaper articles and discussed local news. We recorded ourselves as we learned to pronounce words correctly. It all prepared me to take the standardized English language test, an essential requirement for foreign students who wish to apply to American universities.

My first stop at Loyola was the sociology department, where I inquired about the transfer process. There I met Anne Figert, who is now the department chair. After she walked me through the procedures of transferring my courses from the University of Sarajevo, I was able to begin my coursework, but I soon realized I did not fully grasp the cultural and social complexity around me. I still didn’t have full confidence in my English skills. Then came the moment when it all finally clicked.

I remember sitting in Professor Lauren Langman’s class as he was talking about critical theory. As he described the Marxist concept of alienation, I was soaking in every word he said. I thought to myself, “Finally! This resonates.” I loved his class. He was my favorite professor, an exceptional social theory scholar, and a major source of support in nearly everything I have done professionally since I graduated.

As refugees who were just settling into a new life, my family lived on a tight budget. The four of us lived in a one-bedroom apartment relatively close to Loyola’s campus. Rather than going to the library, I did most of my studying on Granville beach, sitting on the rocks by the lake. I often say that I earned my bachelor’s degree with honors literally studying by the lake.

Coming full circle
After graduation, I continued my academic journey by earning a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and eventually, almost two decades later, getting my PhD from the University of Melbourne in Australia. But there was never a question in my mind about where the focus of my work should be. My personal experience has served as my drive to work in justice and human rights. I wanted to take the skills I learned in my new home and apply them to the home I’d been forced to leave many years earlier.

As part of my post-graduate training, I was awarded a human rights internship grant to do research with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a junior analyst returning to Bosnia, I reviewed laws to assess the legal and practical obstacles Bosnian refugees face upon returning home, to help create a policy to allow for displaced persons to return.

From there, I launched my career in human rights. I represented the U.S. government as the seconded expert to the U.N. Mission in Kosovo, where I was the key technical adviser on legal reform in the areas of anti-trafficking, gender-based violence, and human rights and rule of law.

My doctoral studies provided an opportunity to dig deeper in the post-socialist transformation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As the state goes from war to peace, Bosnians who suffered terrible crimes are being ignored. Yet, recognizing victims’ losses and injuries is essential for democracy building and future social and political stability. Because wartime crimes and injustices are widely denied, Bosnians are left to independently seek justice for rights violated using courts.

This February marked exactly 23 years since my family left Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a little over six years since my father died in Chicago. But it also marked a new anniversary. Last February, I found myself back on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus to teach part-time in the sociology department.

Being back in the place where I started out as a new refugee in America—and where some of the professors who helped me so much still teach—feels like coming home. I feel privileged to be able to help guide a new generation of young scholars in using the sociological imagination to look at the world in new, critical ways. They must learn to see beyond what is obvious and to recognize structural injustice. I want to teach them to know their rights, to advocate for themselves and others, and to help shape society into a more just place, one step at a time.

I imagine there are many other things I could be doing in my career. However, there is nothing else I hear calling my name. Human rights and justice work is not a matter of vocation for me; it is what my life is all about.


Read more stories of Loyola alumni

Rise of the machines

College of Arts and Sciences

Advances in artificial intelligence could change the way we work in the not-so-distant future

By Tasha Neumeister

Could your next co-worker be a machine or a robot? It’s not out of the realm of possibility, says George K. Thiruvathukal, professor of computer science and director of Loyola’s departmental computing.

The strides made in artificial intelligence (AI), the computer science area where computers perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, have grown exponentially, and Thiruvathukal expects to see a steady progression in the next five to 10 years with robotics becoming more a part of our everyday workplace. “Much as the printing press and modern electronic computer had direct consequences on the workforce,” he says, “the new age of AI/machine learning is going to replace many jobs.”

Thiruvathukal has been tracking advances in AI and robotics, an industry that has steadily grown to replicate humans both in function and character. Many activities that humans undertake can be done more safely or efficiently by robots. We’re already seeing robotic automation in industries such as agriculture and manufacturing, and Thiruvathukal expects to see robots play a larger role in the future in fields such as medicine, pharmacy, space exploration, and the military.

Even some of the seemingly far-fetched AI seen in Hollywood may not be that far off. Computer vision, for example, has seen great strides with advances in autonomous vehicles like self-driving cars, bringing us closer to robots having an intelligent pair of eyes. Robotic hands, including prosthetics, are also now being developed for amputees. While this is not exactly creating full androids yet, the ability to realistically mimic physiology is a key component of building the next Terminator.

But should the idea of AI in the workplace be as frightening as the Terminator? Thiruvathukal isn’t so sure. “The workforce will need to adapt to the latest innovations in computing technology,” he says. “More than ever, we face the risk of losing many good jobs. But we’re seeing many good jobs being created, too.”

The “holy grail” for AI research, as he puts it, is for computer algorithms to do the work with little or no human supervision. “At first blush, this may sound like we have no need for humans,” he says. “But it is the contrary: We’d like human brainpower to be focused on the overall tasks, as humans are needed to adjust what the robots are doing.”

That means the skillset needed for some jobs will change. Human workers will at minimum need to know how to write a bit of code to be able to manage their robot workers, Thiruvathukal says. In his classes at Loyola, he’s trying to ensure that future generations of workers will have the technological literacy to keep up with the changes ahead.

“There has never been a better time or place to learn about computing,” Thiruvathukal says, “at least to make sure you’ll know something about your next co-worker—a robot—and how it gets its work done.”

Your neighborhood nurse

Niehoff cover story

Senior nursing student Katie Kazimir works with resident Lillian Stratigakes at the Pat Crowley House in Rogers Park, where Niehoff students meet regularly with patients. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

For more than three decades, Niehoff students have been gaining experience outside the classroom—and transforming lives in the local community

By Anna Gaynor

On a bright Thursday afternoon, a small group of students meet on the first floor of Pat Crowley House, a Rogers Park apartment complex for seniors who need assisted care. Sitting in the community living room for their first day, the nursing students get debriefed on the home’s residents and their daily activities. Walking in late are Katie Kazimir and Sara Reilly—Kazimir’s first home visit went longer than they expected thanks to a talkative patient and a temperamental little dog. “He was very protective of her,” Reilly says, half-joking.

Fortunately, Kazimir and Reilly weren’t checking up on the dog. Once a week for the next semester, the two will come to that patient’s home to help her manage her chronic health problems.

All of these students are part of Loyola’s Community Nursing Center program. Throughout this semester, they will do home visits in the Rogers Park, Edgewater, and Uptown communities for those who cannot afford home health care. Students, like Kazimir and Reilly, will look at a number of things for each patient: their general health, housing situation, mobility, and ability to do daily chores. If students find that a patient can’t manage certain activities or afford certain necessities anymore, they will work to match that patient with a government agency or nonprofit that can help.

“We keep people out of the hospital by intervening earlier with chronic diseases,” says Monica Dillon (BSN ’82), project director of the Community Nursing Center. “We do a lot of education, but we do a lot of assessments and try to intervene before the diabetic becomes out of control.”

For Kazimir’s patient, she will need to assess her vitals, change bandages, answer questions, and help with any other health issues she might be having. “It’s a much slower environment,” Kazimir says. “The pace is more relaxed, where as in the hospital everything is going really quickly and your day flies by. You have to be constantly thinking on your feet. This is stopping and being with the patient.”

Every semester, roughly 40 students are divided into groups to be led by instructors like Jennifer Lucas (BSN ’02, MSN ’07), a Loyola alum who is working with the Pat Crowley House group. Each of these students is assigned two patients, one at the house and another in the community. Students make visits in pairs, which means four home visits per week.

This experience teaches students what happens when patients leave the hospital. During visits, a student will ask patients to show them the medications and instructions they received from their doctor or the hospital. For financial reasons or due to a miscommunication, patients might not have gotten a prescription filled, didn’t make that follow-up appointment, or don’t have the support system in place to follow a doctor’s instructions. It’s a lesson that Lucas finds stays with them after graduation.

“Even some former students who are now nurses in the ICU, as they’re discharging a patient they start to think, ‘Oh wait, is home care set up?’ Are the supplies there? Do you have a home health nurse? Who’s going to help you with your bandages?’ ” Lucas says. “So they start thinking more holistically.”

Humble beginnings
The Community Nursing Center started in the unheated basement of St. Ignatius Church in Rogers Park, but since its beginning in 1981, it has grown into an integral part of the north side community. Dillon was a student at the center in 1982, started working at the nursing center in 2014, and was named director this summer.

“You’d be surprised how much it hasn’t changed,” she says. “We still have the same mission to reach out to probably the most vulnerable seniors in the community. The Nursing Center continues to be a critical safety net.”

Today, students have started seeing patients with increasingly more complicated health issues. For many, the visits are what allows them to stay in their homes. “There’s nothing else like it,” says Pam Andresen, who was the director of the center from 1988 to 2010. “We have had grant funding over the years, but we’re mainly supported by the University, and they have supported us since 1981.”

New students don’t just treat individual patients, most of whom are seniors. They’re teaching public health classes in addition to those home visits. Classes have taught preschoolers the best way to brush their teeth, wash their hands, and even cough and sneeze. Students might do a series of prenatal classes, talk about healthy eating at Loyola’s farmers market, or discuss treating arthritis at senior centers.

For all of these programs though, the Community Nursing Center makes sure listen to the community first and foremost.
“In community health, it’s important to know what the population needs so we’re not going to teach them something they have no interest in,” Andresen says. “At the senior center, if we had gone and talked about preventing falls, which would be actually a very good thing to teach, but if they felt like, ‘oh I’m safe, I’m not going to fall,’ they probably would not have even shown up.”

A lasting impact
Dillon, Andresen, and Lucas all have stories about the work students have done—whether it was helping a veteran get reconnected with a VA hospital, finding pro bono help for a patient who hadn’t been to a dentist in over a decade, or convincing a patient to visit the ER where she was told her body was in the process of shutting down.

Nursing students take pride in changing someone’s life for the better, but sometimes these changes take place over years, not weeks. During Lucas’ first semester at the Nursing Center, a new resident moved into the Pat Crowley House. When Lucas and her students sat down with the woman, they asked if there was any health issue she wanted help with.

Turns out, the resident had a goal: lose 100 pounds using a food journal. For that first semester though, she just wrote down her meals in the journal. The second semester, she asked the students to circle foods she shouldn’t be eating. Next, she wanted to know what she could have to replace the foods previous students had circled. And after she had lost those 100 pounds, another group of students helped her revisit and lower the amount of medications she was taking.

“Sometimes the students only see a small piece of the puzzle. They may say, ‘I don’t think I’m really helping this person or doing much,’ ” Lucas says. “As an instructor, I can see over the last six years, all of the little semesters add up. Everything that they’ve done each semester has now completely changed this person’s life.”

Next up
Back at the Pat Crowley House, Carla Dannug and Lauren Baranovskis are still sitting in the living room while some of their fellow students are being introduced to their patients. The residents Dannug and Baranovskis have come to meet are out, so they’re writing brief notes introducing themselves to leave behind. This is a big leap from their previous classwork. Before this, these students were primarily in a hospital environment working alongside a nurse.

“I definitely think that this experience of being on your own, it gives you a wakeup call of, ‘Oh, I’m actually graduating next year,’” Dannug says. “There’s so many preventative measures that you can take in helping them from ever even going to the hospital.”

The two are joining a long line of nurses who have benefited from the center—no matter what path or specialty they choose afterward.

“I’m kind of realizing this is the reason I went into nursing,” Baranovskis says. “This really pins it on the head: getting out into the community and preventing people from getting into hospitals to begin with.”

What's in the water?

IES Tham Hoang

Researcher Tham Hoang is working to make rivers and lakes from Vietnam to Chicago safer for their inhabitants—and for us

By Amanda Friedlander ('18)

Tham Hoang knows how important it is not to take water for granted. For more than 15 years, Hoang, an associate professor in Loyola’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability, has been studying the toxicity of contaminants in water, particularly heavy metals. And in his travels to developing countries in the Lower Mekong River Basin, he’s seen just how much of a difference environmental water quality standards can make.

Last year, a chemical leak from a steel mill led to contamination of the coastal environment of four provinces in Vietnam, resulting in one of the most massive fish kills ever in the country. Not only did the toxic chemicals cause serious health issues for anyone who consumed the fish, it led to an economic crisis in the surrounding areas that rely on fishing. So the Vietnam Environment Administration called on Hoang to provide his input on the cause of the fish deaths.

Over the past five years, Hoang has led a toxicity research project in countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. While many Western countries already have models that take into account the water quality parameter when determining heavy metal toxicity in a given environment, some Southeastern Asian countries had not yet developed such a model. In response, Hoang and his colleagues developed a copper Biotic Ligand Model, which will help Mekong countries set more relevant water quality standards to prevent adverse effects of heavy metals from industrial development.

Hoang has collaborated with experts from around the world to conduct three workshops to train scientists and government employees on using the model for setting copper water quality standards.

“In Southeast Asia, there’s a lot of things they don’t know about environmental toxicology,” Hoang says. “However, the environment is getting worse over there. If we bring this new field of science to those countries, scientists can understand it and have more opportunities to collaborate. It also can help local governments develop a better management plan.”

Hoang has been working close to home as well; the Great Lakes are notoriously contaminated with microplastics, PCBs, DDT, and heavy metals. While some are monitoring the concentration of these contaminants in Chicago, Hoang is focused on the potential damage that this pollution can do to affected ecosystems.

“Plastics stay in the environment for a long time and absorb organic contaminants on their surface,” he says. “When organisms in the water consume plastics and carry those contaminants in their bodies, over time the chemicals will be concentrated in their bodies and move to higher trophic levels. Eventually, those will be transferred into humans when we eat the fish.”

Hoang hopes that the results of his research will help to make environmental quality guidelines more relevant. As of now, there are no EPA standards for heavy metal mixtures in the environment, only single-metal standards. Understanding how contaminants affect the natural ecosystem, Hoang says, will help to develop better management guidelines to reduce the negative impact of these contaminants on the environment.

Changing the conversation

Civil discourse

As heated arguments between opposing parties have become the norm in an ever-polarized society, Loyola faculty are helping students bring back a little civility

By Anna Gaynor

The overwhelming ubiquitousness of social media—and the internet in general—offers us the opportunity to easily make connections with people all around the world. Unfortunately, it also seems to offer just as many opportunities to create and reinforce divisions.

It’s easier than ever to avoid opposing viewpoints online and to anonymously shout down anyone who offers a different perspective. People can seek out only the news sources and opinions that align with their already held beliefs, confirming rather than challenging their worldview. These self-imposed ideological quarantines have greatly contributed to our current polarized culture, resulting in an environment where healthy debate and civil discourse can hardly thrive.

That’s something Michael Murphy, director of Catholic Studies and associate director of Loyola’s Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage, hopes he can help change. As an educator who has taught everyone from kindergarteners to post-doctoral students in the past 25 years, Murphy has seen a marked difference over the past five in how students debate issues.

“With technological advances, the media-saturated culture, and the very nearness of media to us all, people were getting a little more intense about the big ideas and really not navigating it in ways that were charitable and humane,” Murphy says.

As a Jesuit, Catholic University with a social justice mission, Loyola continues a tradition of fostering a diverse community where civil discourse and civic engagement are strongly encouraged. It is essential in today’s society—especially with so much division—to take on difficult issues and to discuss them in a respectful manner. Showing students how to navigate these often challenging conversations is a task Loyola faculty don’t take lightly—and for Murphy, a strong liberal arts education is a very important part of that.

“All of a sudden, we wake up and there is a breach in civil discourse,” he says. “The connection is that people do not really do the reading or are hungry or curious—I’m not wagging my finger—but the curiosity about the things that matter in life compete against these other quick things. It’s hard for a person to be balanced in that tradition, which really is a Loyola tradition. So, we’re holding on to get it back a little bit.”

And getting that back might mean looking back—all the way to 1546. While St. Ignatius wrote thousands of letters, it’s a specific letter to his brothers at the Council in Trent that Murphy believes represents the Jesuit tradition, a tradition of simply talking to one another (see sidebar). In “On Dealing with Others,” Ignatius writes:

Be slow to speak, and only after having first listened quietly, so that you may understand the meaning, leanings, and wishes of those who do speak. Thus you will better know when to speak and when to be silent.

Murphy understands that encouraging students to have conversations and dialogue isn’t necessarily the most exciting approach to civil discourse, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. “It really is the best way,” he says. “It’s easy to throw blows. It’s harder to dialogue. So if it’s harder, it usually is more worth our time.”

Another Loyola faculty member has been looking even further into the past to examine today’s political discourse. In his classes at the School of Communication, assistant professor George Villanueva focuses on Aristotle. Specifically, Villanueva asks students to use the philosopher’s Rhetorical Triangle, a framework that breaks down arguments into three elements: logic (logos), ethics (ethos), and emotion (pathos).

Aristotle’s Rhetorical Triangle, or any other type of analytical approach, gives students a framework to analyze political speeches and media from the past as well as today. Students can recognize that a speaker who reads off a list of dry facts and figures has an excess of logos, while their opponent, who uses their speech to tell the story of a family impacted by an issue, is leaning more on pathos. This academic knowledge of how speeches work can help establish ground rules for when students find themselves in the midst of debate.

“Obviously everything is personal, but I try to refer back to the course material and some analytical terms that we’ve been learning in the class,” Villanueva says. “So we can try to take a step a back and understand this within that analytical term, and how rhetoric or communication theories can be applied to this current event or debate.”

From his own experience, Don Heider, dean of the School of Communication, recognizes that emotions can play a large role, and sometimes an obstacle, in these types of disagreements. “I definitely don’t disagree with passion, but we’ll never have civil discourse if we are too emotionally invested in an issue,” Heider says. “What’s missing, I think, in a lot of discourse these days is the ability to actually listen to another human being and try to understand and appreciate what they’re feeling—even though you assume you understand them. It’s a big mistake.”

In his theology courses, Murphy encourages students to talk about and analyze divisive issues. He takes a different approach than Villanueva—but has a similar agenda.

Murphy asks his students to remove themselves from the debate, meaning they have to avoid any “I” statements. Instead, Murphy wants them to understand the entire issue, and that means understanding the full spectrum of opinions on the subject. On each side of a white board, he’ll write the two opposite positions in a debate and then fill in the less extreme views that fall between them.

“The agenda in the classroom is to say: All right, let’s put these things into play,” Murphy says. “Where we objectively put the ideas next to one another, divorced of my opinion, and to encourage students to be sober in their dealing with them.”

Villanueva often brings community organizers and advocates into his classes to discuss their work and the challenges they face. While they have specific views and positions that they are arguing for, they’re also the people who are out having real one-on-one encounters—talking to neighbors, knocking doors, and just being physically present.

“I think we need to return to conversation in some kind of physical presence, otherwise we’re just going to be susceptible to media,” he says. “Media is great, don’t get me wrong. I love media. I study media, but I know that without any conversation in the physical presence, you can’t get anywhere.”

In class, Villanueva sees that students want a better way to connect, and he encourages them to have more face-to-face conversations—rather than getting involved in the one-sided ones they can find behind their keyboards or phones. The challenge, he admits, is getting them to accept disagreement and be willing to be uncomfortable.

“I think we’re way too stuck with thinking that agreement is the goal,” he says. “It can’t be the goal. History has taught us, agreement is never there. How do you actually be uncomfortable with being in disagreement and just working through these discussions—and sometimes knowing that some of this is going to be painful?”

Some of that discomfort comes from recognizing others’ feelings and motivations and realizing they may be different from your own. Murphy believes asking questions to understand a different viewpoint is key, such as, “Why in your heart or your mind do you think this way?" or "What are you worried about if something else happens?”

“It’s not anything too complicated,” Murphy says. “I seek for a deeper understanding and I don’t want to use the ‘I’ statements to defend myself. I’m more interested in what you feel about it.

“The grace part comes in when we have the courage and the willingness to be open to others’ points of view, and in the art of discussing these things in a civil manner.”

Gun violence: It’s a public health issue

gun violence hospitals

Treating victims of violent crime can be a strain on the resources of a hospital's emergency room. So why don't we treat it the same as other health concerns?

By Erinn Connor

The 2009 flu pandemic killed more than 14,000 people around the world. The Ebola epidemic claimed more than 11,000 lives. And guns are responsible for nearly 33,000 deaths in the United States alone each year. So why isn’t gun violence treated like a public health pandemic? That’s something that Loyola University Chicago and Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC) doctors, chaplains, and other caregivers are trying to change.

Mark Cichon, DO, professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the Stritch School of Medicine and Loyola University Medical Center, and hospital chaplain Rev. Michael Hayes have been trying to draw attention to the prevalence of gun violence, particularly in Chicago, to help curb some of the effects of senseless violence that they see in the LUMC emergency room every day.

In March 2016, a letter to the editor from Cichon and Hayes was published in the Chicago Tribune, where they asked the community and its leaders to see gun violence as a public health concern. “Gun violence is as much of a public health concern as is the Zika virus, heart disease, cancer, or obesity . . . Taking a scientific approach has been successful in treating health issues such as polio and HIV/AIDS. The same can be true with this plague of violence,” they wrote.

Addressing fellow doctors, nurses, social workers, and other caregivers at LUMC, Cichon added: “There’s been a call for action for more research, but it’s a career ender for physicians, because the advocacy against gun violence research is so powerful. They’ll be committing academic suicide if they try and do that research. You won’t get funding.”

As Cichon and other physicians note, it is difficult to procure funding for gun violence studies because of powerful lobbying groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA successfully lobbied Congress to strip the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of any funding for gun violence research in 1996 with the Dickey amendment, which states no funds for injury prevention at the CDC can be used to promote gun control. This was three years after a CDC-funded study found a connection between guns in the home and an increased risk of homicide. Most gun research is now done by independent organizations.

“Let’s say we were talking about West Nile Virus or Zika. If a doctor of a major hospital said our city is in trouble, I would expect to see city officials stepping forward, foundations providing the funding that we need,” says Hayes. “We need more research. We need to know what the root causes of this violence are, in an interdisciplinary way.”

Cichon is now researching the cost of the gun violence he sees every day in the emergency room at LUMC. He’s found the average cost of one gunshot victim, whether it’s a graze wound or if they pass away, is $1 million. This takes into account not only the medical and legal costs but also factors in declining property values and the loss of business in the area.

The University, the hospital, and security staff are also building relationships with local police departments, so they can better combat and prevent violence in the communities surrounding LUMC and Loyola University’s Health Sciences Campus. Loyola doctors, nurses, and other staff members are looking for ways to do what they can to bring awareness to not only the sheer number of gunshot victims they see in the emergency department but also to shift the public perception from gunshot violence being a futile problem to one that can be addressed using science, research, and compassion.

“I now see this as a contagion. As a contagion, I can recognize that what we were looking at was a perfect storm,” says Hayes. “If we do not address it at its root, it can engulf many innocent people. So we have to as caregivers have the focus not to lead with blaming the victim already but treat them as persons worthy of our care.”

The Jesuit next door


Above: Jerry Overbeck, S.J., sits in his office on the third floor of the Terry Student Center surrounded by photos and mementos of the many friendships he’s made over the years at Loyola. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia) Below: Father Overbeck is pictured with students in his Mertz residence hall room in 1999 (photo courtesy University Archives) and with the children of alum Troy Fleming during a recent family trip to a pumpkin patch (photo courtesy of Jerry Overbeck).

Over his 40 years at Loyola, Jerry Overbeck, S.J., has formed lasting relationships with generations of alumni

By Maura Sullivan Hill

He’s known as Fr. Jerry, Fr. J, even Dr. J. Others call him Padre, or Padrecito. At the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu, Hawaii, he is Pono. Some teasingly refer to him as FJSJ, with the last two letters standing not for Society of Jesus but “surfing Jesuit.”

No matter which name you know him by, he’s Rev. T. Jerome Overbeck, S.J., a beloved chaplain and professor who has been a part of Loyola since August 1976. He’s comfortable with whichever name people use; he’s just happy to be talking to them.

“My name is Thomas Jerome. I’m a junior, and they called me Jerry from when I was little,” he explains. “As I became an adult, I learned more about St. Jerome and, honestly, I think it names who I am.”

St. Jerome is known for translating the Bible into Latin, then the common language of the people, to make it more accessible. In many ways, that’s the work Overbeck has been doing at Loyola for four decades. “My method of working is: Go where the people are,” he says. “Whether it’s food courts, Starbucks, Pippin’s, wherever. The place isn’t important.”

That’s why you’ll find Overbeck at Starbucks on State and Pearson at 6:30 every weekday morning (except for Thursday, his one day off) for what he considers his office hours but what students have dubbed “Java with the Jesuit.” He says he sees the early birds, and those who haven’t been to bed yet. There is always a seat at his table, whether it is for someone who needs to talk about a personal problem or a student with a question on a class assignment. “Truly, I see more students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, neighbors, and baristas at that Starbucks than I ever see in my church, classroom, or office,” he says.

For Overbeck, any conversation is his classroom, and he never stops teaching and learning. “I’ve loved teaching for all of my Jesuit life, but I think there are different ways to teach,” he says. “It’s the variety of venues that I find so interesting, where people learn how to put life learning together with classroom learning.”

Many of these conversations occur in Baumhart Hall, where Overbeck lives. He’s spent 30 of his 40 years at Loyola in residence halls. He lived in Mertz Hall at the Lake Shore Campus with 700 freshmen, then helped the University open Simpson Hall and later Regis Hall before moving downtown.

Brian McFadden (BBA ’99) lived a few doors down from Overbeck on the 10th floor of Mertz, and it was the beginning of an enduring friendship. “I find our conversations as meaningful now as they were 22 years ago, just in a completely different context,” McFadden says. “Then, I was a freshman from Omaha, Nebraska, with no ties or friends in Chicago. Now, I’m a parent with four kids.”

Overbeck presided at McFadden’s wedding, baptized his children, and blessed the family’s first home. McFadden’s wife, Jackie, says Overbeck cultivates a relaxed, comfortable environment with their kids. That’s something McFadden also witnessed at Loyola. “He’s visible and approachable, whether it’s with freshmen or graduate students or graduates, of faith or not of faith,” he says.

Every Tuesday night, Overbeck makes a home-cooked meal at his apartment and brings it around the residence hall to offer to his neighbors, going door-to-door until the pot is empty. Chicken stew is on the menu in the winter, and he often defaults to his specialty, Italian cooking. He’s also been known to make Moroccan dishes, a skill he picked up while living and studying in Casablanca.

“I knock on every door, ask if anyone is hungry, and offer whatever I made that night,” Overbeck says. “Believe me, this connection feeds more than the body.” 

Beyond their shared address, Overbeck has something else in common with students: He is a graduate himself, earning his degree from what was then Loyola’s Bellarmine School of Theology in 1970. He decided to become a Jesuit around the time he started college, and feels he’s perfectly suited to the order.

“I’m called to be a contemplative in action,” he says. “The chapel that is right down the hall from my office is a good symbol of Ignatian spirituality, in the sense that it has a contemplative quality to it and there is a stillness in the room, yet if you look out the window, you’re clearly in the middle of a vibrant city. Being a Jesuit is finding God in the middle of all that.”

At Loyola, Overbeck has taught courses on theology, anthropology, counseling, and social work. His official titles have varied over the years, including professor, University Liturgist, and chaplain of the schools of law and social work, his current role. He’s such a fixture, in fact, that Lu’s Deli and Pub in the Terry Student Center even named a sandwich after him—the “Fr.  J.”

Although his titles have changed, one thing has remained consistent: Overbeck’s dedicated presence on campus. Generations of alumni cherish his influence on their lives, as evidenced by the packed house at Madonna della Strada Chapel for the celebration of his 50th year as a Jesuit in 2014.

“He is multidimensional. He’s an authority figure, yet he mixes really well with the students and is dedicated to that,” says Mike Calsin (BBA ’93). “I’m sure there are days when he’d really like to be by himself, but he’s with the student body almost all the time because he thinks that’s where he needs to be.”

“He’s a common thread through a lot of Loyola experiences,” adds Maria Calsin (BBA ’93), Mike’s wife.

The Calsins remember encountering Overbeck for the first time at the 10:15 p.m. Sunday Mass as undergraduates. They found his homilies relatable and relevant. When the couple got engaged, Overbeck was a natural choice to preside at their wedding.
That would be the first of many sacraments he would perform for the Calsin family: he’s baptized all three of their sons, heard the boys’ first confessions, and gave them their First Communion. The family’s eldest son, Jack, even asked Overbeck to be his confirmation sponsor.

“I couldn’t even respond, I just got up and gave him a hug,” Overbeck recalls. “I was just so moved.”

It’s an annual tradition for Overbeck to accompany the Calsins to a pumpkin patch and corn maze every fall, and he’s always a guest at their extended family celebration of St. Joseph’s Day. They invite him when they bring their sons to campus to cheer on the Loyola basketball team. And beyond the fun family, Overbeck still supports and guides the Calsins like he did with those applicable homilies during their undergraduate years.

“When I was a student, I was comfortable talking to him. As a parent I’ve been comfortable talking to him, the same as a friend,” Maria says. “He’s just genuine.” Mike adds, “He is a good listener and a good thought-provoker. He has in-depth conversations with people, and yet makes them feel really comfortable.”

So comfortable, in fact, that Overbeck is in high demand for alumni weddings and baptisms. He’s never taken the time to count up the ceremonies, but if it is a weekend between April and October, odds are high that he’s presiding at a sacrament for Loyola alumni.

June and July, however, are the exception. For the past seven years, Overbeck has spent those two months in Hawaii. He works on research and writing, and also presides at the cathedral in Honolulu. That’s where he got the name Pono (“righteousness” in Hawaiian), bestowed upon him by a friend who was a high priest in the indigenous Hawaiian religion.

It’s also where he hits the water. Remember the “surfing Jesuit” nickname? Overbeck took up the sport in the ’60s on the West Coast, and fell more in love with surfing when he spent a summer working at a parish in Hawaii during the early years of his priesthood. Surfing actually reminds him of Jesuit discernment. “When you are surfing, you have to learn to spot the wave you think has the most power, and you can feel it as soon as you catch the wave,” he says. “If you don’t lean in to it enough, you’re dead in the water. If you go too far, you tumble [off the board].”

Just like discernment, he says. “You’ll feel it when you catch the wave, when you catch where God is working in your life and you’re on a roll, man. If you don’t lean in enough, or you lean too much and try to control things, uh oh. There’s only one God, and lest there be any confusion, it would not be you!” he laughs.

With Overbeck’s willing laugh and engaging storytelling, it’s easy to see why students and alumni have been drawn to him for so long. But he is also a rock in difficult moments.

Troy Fleming (JD ’13) and his wife, Dawn, turned to Overbeck when their youngest son, Garrett, was born with meningitis and it was unclear whether he would survive. Overbeck dropped everything to go to the hospital to pray with the family. He remembers cradling Garrett in his arms, with the other two Fleming children hugging his legs, and Dawn and Troy standing close, all fervently praying.

“It was what we needed and it gave such peace and comfort to us,” says Dawn. “We had already spent some years together, and this was something that now binds us for a lifetime.”

Today, Garrett is an energetic, completely healthy four-year-old. Last year, on a family trip to the pumpkin patch with Overbeck, Garrett was scooting around a corn pit and happily riding down the slide. “My heart was so full of gratitude I almost cried, just to see this kid healthy as a horse,” Overbeck says.

Inside the Terry Student Center, Overbeck’s office is decorated with photos, cards, and notes from the families, alumni, and students who love him. There are wedding and baptism pictures, family photos, Christmas cards, and more, hanging on all four walls of the room; a visual representation of the love and appreciation the Loyola community has for him.

And the feeling is mutual. “What I don’t make in dollars and cents, I do make in job satisfaction,” he says. “I feel like God has lavished me with so many gifts by being here for 40 years—mostly the relationships.”

Setting the world on fire

Setting the world on fire

Above, a promotional booklet for the Meenan Corporation shows the Congress Hotel, just one of the iconic Chicago buildings that Cyril F. Meenan's Combusto-Jet was responsible for heating. Below, Meenan is pictured as a Loyola student in 1930 and in a 1973 newspaper clipping. (Images courtesy of Michael Murphy)

How my grandfather’s Ignatian-inspired ignition helped to fan the flames of the sustainability movement

By Michael P. Murphy

When my grandpa, Cyril Francis Meenan, came up to Loyola from Rock Island in 1928, his intention was not to become a pioneer in green technology. He hoped instead to begin a career in law and develop his formidable skills as a musician. Still, one never knows how the road of life will weave and wind, and the story of my grandpa’s experience resonates with many who came of age in difficult times.

‌The list is long in human history of inventions or discoveries that were the result of a “happy accident” or unexpected twist of fate. My grandfather’s Combusto-Jet, which optimized boiler efficiency and reduced air pollution in large-scale heating systems, was one such invention. That his Combusto-Jet would end up heating much of industrial Chicago (and beyond) in the latter half of the 20th century is all that much more of a marvel.

But Cyril’s story is also a tale in an Ignatian key: the journey of a prayerful pilgrim responding to a series of “cannonball moments,” the kind of which engender a breed of grit and innovative spirit needed to become the author of seven patents and a true energy pioneer.

Perfect combustion in combustible times
Fundamentally, the Combusto-Jet was a product born of the Great Depression. Like many students in Chicago then and now, my grandpa worked as he went to school, moonlighting for a heating company and selling boilers on the side. By 1931, times became so difficult that my grandpa was forced to leave Loyola without a degree. This blow was hard to take and not at all part of his plan. But my grandpa, who discerned God’s hand in all things, saw his way forward and did not waver.

If heating was the thing, so be it. Cyril would respond to St. Ignatius’s admonition to “set the world on fire” precisely by—in a manner of speaking—setting the world on fire. He became hooked on combustion and dead-set on evolving his understanding of efficient heating systems. He rode out the Depression by working for others, honing his skills, and cultivating his natural disposition to entrepreneurship, and was ever grateful to be gainfully employed.

By the late 1940s, my grandpa had made a name for himself in the world of industrial heating. He had also fallen in love, started a family with my grandmother, and created his own small heating business, the Meenan Corporation. But he was always “improving product” and searching for the pristine flame. This quest was not without trials of many kinds. The obligations and worries for the owner of a small business, where no job is too small, were legion. He injured his left hand preparing a job at his Clark Street shop and was never able to play his beloved violin again—a devastating wound he bore with quiet dignity.

But one evening, he caught a break. As he was busy running a test for a boiler job, Cyril inadvertently kicked over a shop vacuum and then beheld a glorious sight: the flaming tongues of the perfect burn. This happy accident, fleeting as it was, inspired a new direction in engineering. My grandpa’s questions about facilitating perfect combustion and the path to improved fuel efficiency were asked under a new light. What if I inject a more systematic flow of oxygen into the chamber? What hard materials would be needed to recreate and sustain such conditions?

The “vacuum event” was a game changer, and like the story of so many accidental inventions—from penicillin to potato chips to post-it notes—the event inspired forays of robust experimentation. There were many failures; torching copper and other materials beyond recognition, gassy disasters produced by bad fuel-to-air ratios. But Cyril was onto it. He crafted a device out of refractory cement replete with strategically placed holes that were situated, insulated, and ventilated for optimal burn. Eureka: the Combusto-Jet was born.

What began as a boon to fuel efficiency inspired by the hard lessons of the Depression became uniquely relevant for energy conservation and pollution abatement in the early days of environmental consciousness. The Combusto-Jet not only facilitated radical fuel efficiency, it also reduced pollution dramatically—a feature dear to my grandpa and one he emphasized in his marketing material from day one. This one-two punch became attractive to many Chicago manufacturers, and to others who required large spectrum heating, especially with the rise of emissions regulations in the early 1970s.

At its height of operation, the Meenan Corporation—staffed by uncles and cousins and 20 odd others—had over 1,000 systems in place. The client list included titans of Chicago industry: M&M Mars; Sears, Roebuck, and Co.; Coca-Cola; and Motorola. Other notable clients included The Art Institute of Chicago, Spiegel, and Illinois Bell, as well as out-of-state installations at The US Naval Academy in Annapolis and Domino Sugar in New York. The other large category of clients, not surprisingly, were institutions and communities of a decidedly Catholic orientation—seminaries, hospitals, and parishes—and, of course, Loyola. My grandpa had the Catholic market cornered, and for all the right reasons!

This is to say that Cyril’s faith life is the crucial component of this story. He was a Catholic “in full” in a time when that meant something distinctive. Like many Meenans, he was often a daily communicant; and like many Catholics in his era, he drew his main sense of community in the sacramental, liturgical, and social life of the church. He consecrated his family—including all 14 of us grandchildren—to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Politically speaking, his was a Catholicism that transcended the tenuous boundaries of identity politics, his abiding view being that life is to be cherished in every form and stage because, as he would often say (in ways that strike me now as all too Ignatian), “It’s all God’s gift.”

Catholic identity values such as these were central in his life, and they were not confined to Sundays alone. Moreover, the core Catholic intellectual premise of faith meeting reason became the cornerstone for his business plan. As Cyril wrote, “We employ the best of scientific observation and method.” We utilize resources responsibly; we minimize pollution because it is our responsibility to do so; and we take care of the gift and leave things better for the next generation. We pray because we cannot do it alone and, as he taught me, “we always rely on the mystery of God’s grace.”

For me, these are no mere platitudes; and, by the collision of my own personal cannonballs, I was able to get a sense of this kind of spirituality when I was very young. My grandfather taught me much about prayer; and, by a strange course of events, he also gave me my first spiritual direction by preparing me for my first communion.

Sure, we didn’t call it spiritual direction in the Ignatian mode back then, but things often make more sense with the benefit of hindsight, especially when you’re Irish. In Queen of All Saints Basilica (my family’s parish and, of course, one of my grandpa’s favorite accounts), we would kneel in silence and then “bring our needs to the beads” by praying decades of the Rosary. He would then encourage me to do two things: first, to be ever grateful and to note why, and second, to always ask God what he wants of me. In its focus on the magis, it strikes me as so explicitly Ignatian: What more does God want of me? What more does God want of us?

Ite Inflammate Omnia
In 2012, I was at a professional crossroads. While I was no stranger to Chicago, I was born and raised in California and saw my life unfolding there. But the perfect job opened-up at Loyola which gave my wife, daughters, and I cause for serious discernment about our family’s future. Three main reasons to move emerged as decisive: the excellent work taking place in The Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage (CCIH), the Loyola identity document on transformative education (so singularly brilliant and bold), and the life-giving vision of the Institute for Environmental Sustainability. I’ve been fortunate enough to work at the crossroads of all three of these gems in Loyola’s crown.

When I think of my grandpa, I think that the Spirit is at work here. I think that, in some meaningful way, my work connects to his and that Loyola has a vital part in all of this this. “Maybe you'll go here one day,” he would say. Maybe so.

The purpose of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius is to respond to the movement of God’s grace within us “so that the light and love of God inflame all possible decisions and resolutions about life situations.” Cyril took this to heart in a humble but radically intentional way. “Look at that clean flame, honey,” he said to my mother, Joan, along for the ride one day with her dad as he checked the mechanics on a job. “That’s the beginning of perfect combustion.”

Ite inflammate omnia is what we tell our students: “Go and set the world on fire.” Carry the fire and nurture the flame. Encounter it and learn from it. Gather its brightness and share its warm light, directing it to the good from which it comes. As my grandpa knew, much depends on it. Man, how he loved a good flame.

About the author
Michael P. Murphy, PhD, is director of the Catholic Studies Interdisciplinary Program and associate director of Loyola’s Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage.

It's never too soon to think about college

Alumna Clarisse Mendoza is getting an early start on preparing the next generation of college students

Clarisse Mendoza (JFRC Spring '05, BA '06) is passionate about getting young people ready for college—even when they are still in elementary school. Mendoza, principal of Tindley Renaissance Academy in Indianapolis, brought her fourth grade class to visit Loyola's campus this spring. See what happened when the young students got to experience life on a college campus.

Read more about Clarisse and her work at Tindley Renaissance Academy

Today’s research, tomorrow’s cure

CTRE research

New discoveries that will impact the lives of future patients are taking place on Loyola's Health Sciences Campus

Research stories by Jim Ritter

The Center for Translational Research and Education opened just over a year ago, and it has already been home to breakthroughs in the lab that could have significant benefits for patients. Here are just a few of the research endeavors currently in progress:

Preventing brain defects in future generations

Repeated binge drinking during adolescence isn’t just dangerous for teenagers—it can also affect brain functions in future generations. Research by Toni R. Pak, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology, found that adolescent binge drinking altered the on-off switches of multiple genes in the brains of teen binge drinkers’ offspring, potentially putting them at risk for such conditions as depression, anxiety, and metabolic disorders.

In the study, one group of teenage rats was exposed to alcohol equivalent to about six binge drinking episodes. The rats mated after becoming sober and the females remained sober during their pregnancies, so any effects on offspring could not be attributed to fetal alcohol syndrome. The alcohol-exposed rats were compared to a control group that were not exposed to alcohol.

In the offspring of alcohol-exposed rats, researchers examined genes in the hypothalamus, response to stress, sleep cycles, and food intake. Researchers looked for molecular changes to DNA that would reverse the on-off switches in individual genes. They found 159 such changes in the offspring of binge-drinking mothers, 93 gene changes in the offspring of binge-drinking fathers, and 244 gene changes in the offspring of mothers and fathers who both were exposed to binge drinking.

The study is the first to show a molecular pathway that teenage binge drinking by either parent can cause changes in the neurological health of subsequent generations.

Solving an HIV mystery

A mystery has long baffled HIV researchers: How does the virus enter the nucleus of immune system cells? A recent discovery by Edward M. Campbell, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, may help to answer this question, and opens a potential new strategy for fighting HIV.

HIV infects and kills immune system cells, including T cells. This cripples the immune system, making the patient vulnerable to common bacteria and viruses that usually don’t cause serious problems in healthy people. Once HIV enters a cell, it has to find a way to get inside the nucleus, which contains the cell’s DNA. Many related viruses do this by waiting until the cell divides, when the protective membrane surrounding the nucleus breaks down. But HIV has the ability to enter the nucleus in a non-dividing cell.

How HIV gets through the nuclear envelope has been a mystery. In part, this is because the HIV core (the protein shell that protects the HIV genome) is 50 percent larger than the pores in the envelope. These pores normally enable cellular proteins and other materials to go back and forth between the nucleus and the rest of the cell.

Campbell and colleagues discovered that a motor protein, called KIF5B, interacts with both the HIV-1 core and the nuclear pore in a way that allows HIV into the nucleus. HIV hijacks KIF5B to serve a different purpose: It induces KIF5B to tear off pieces of the nuclear envelope and transport them away from the nucleus, thus making the pore wide enough for HIV to pass through.

Developing a drug that prevents KIF5B from disrupting nuclear pores would prevent HIV from sneaking into the nucleus without detection. This would give the immune system enough time to attack and destroy HIV.

“It’s like making a bank vault harder to break into,” Campbell says. “In addition to making the money more secure, it would increase the chance of sounding the alarm and catching the burglars.”

Saving lives by lowering blood pressure

Intensive treatment to lower systolic (top number) blood pressure to below 120 would prevent 107,500 U.S. deaths per year, according to research by Richard S. Cooper, MD, chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences, and other coordinating institutions. Two-thirds of the lives saved would be men and two-thirds would be age 75 or older, according to the study.

Current guidelines recommend keeping systolic blood pressure below 140 mmHg. When the treatment goal was lowered to a maximum of 120 mmHg, there was a major reduction in mortality. To determine whether intensive treatment to lower systolic blood pressure could alter mortality, researchers applied findings from a multicenter study to the U.S. adult population. Loyola University Medical Center was among the centers that enrolled patients in the SPRINT trial, which included more than 9,350 adults ages 50 and older who had high blood pressure and were at high risk for cardiovascular disease.

The SPRINT trial found there was a 27 percent reduction in mortality from all causes when systolic blood pressure was lowered below 120 mmHg, compared to the standard treatment of lowering blood pressure below 140 mmHg.

Advancing treatment for children with cancer

A grant from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation will help fund pediatric cancer clinical trials, including funding a research nurse who will coordinate trials of new drugs and drug combinations. Charles Hemenway, MD, PhD, division director of pediatric hematology/oncology and the Ronald McDonald House Charities endowed professor in pediatric oncology, says the grant will make more clinical trials available to patients.

“Because government funding is limited, private funding from organizations such as St. Baldrick’s Foundation plays a critical role in advancing the treatment of children with cancer,” Hemenway says.

Pediatric cancer clinical trials currently open at Loyola are looking for better treatments for leukemia, brain, bone, liver, and kidney cancers. Loyola is among 40 childhood cancer institutions across the country that received infrastructure grants from St. Baldrick’s, the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants. 

The long and winding road


Above: Tamara Franco, left, and her daughter, Patricia Brito, who both will graduate as part of Loyola's Class of 2017, walk together along the path next to Madonna della Strada Chapel on the Lake Shore Campus. (Photo: Heather Eidson) Below: Franco and Brito are pictured in their native Cuba in the 1990s. (Family photo)

Twenty years after leaving Cuba as political refugees, a mother and daughter take the next step as members of the Class of 2017

By Scott Alessi

Patricia Brito easily blends in amidst the sea of students flowing through Damen Student Center. The 23-year-old Loyola senior carries herself with a quiet demeanor, her wavy black hair neatly pulled back to reveal an unassuming smile. She calls little attention to herself as she casually chats with friends between classes, in many ways the picture of the prototypical college student.

Across the room, Tamara Franco is hard to miss. A broad, bright smile stretches between her rosy cheeks, framed by a wall of long, flowing blond curls. She speaks excitedly through a thick Cuban accent, her words accompanied by an infectious, joyful laugh. Her gregarious nature makes her fit right in among her fellow undergraduate students even though, at 47, Franco would seemingly have less in common with her peers than she would with their parents.

As Brito walks through Damen, she talks to a friend who points out a student standing with Franco. “Hey, that’s my sister,” he tells Brito, gesturing toward the young woman. Brito looks over and responds, matter-of-factly, “That’s my mom standing next to her.”

By now, it is a familiar conversation for Brito. Since her sophomore year, she’s shared the Loyola campus with Franco, her mother, as both pursued their bachelor’s degrees. “I still have to explain to some of my friends that, yeah, I go to school with my mom,” she says. “It’s definitely weird. But you get used to it.”

Both Brito and Franco acknowledge that their situation is unique, but for them, it is just the latest stop on a journey that’s been anything but ordinary. It began 20 years ago in Cuba, a country Brito doesn’t even remember, when Franco was forced into exile for challenging the Communist regime. Their path wound its way through Miami, across the Atlantic to Paris, then back to Miami. When Brito was in high school she and her mother moved to Chicago, where both eventually found a home at Loyola.

Through it all they have stuck together. And now mother and daughter—together—will celebrate their college graduation this spring.

Enemy of the state
When asked about the remarkable road she’s traveled, Franco just flashes her characteristic smile and shrugs her shoulders. “Life is unpredictable,” she says.

As a child growing up in El Cristo Oriente, a small town on the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba, Franco couldn’t have imagined where her natural curiosity would one day lead her. Her education was centered on the ideals of the Communist Party, and teachers told her she should shun religion and hate the United States. In middle school she became a member of the Communist Youth Union, which instructed children to be “honest vigilantes,” informing the authorities of anything they saw at school, or even at home, that conflicted with the strict rules of Fidel Castro’s regime. But Franco was never content to accept these teachings at face value.

When she was 13, Franco started asking questions. She wondered why, for example, religion was considered taboo when so many beautiful churches dotted the landscape of Havana. One day, her curiosity got the best of her. She walked into a church and approached a priest, who shared with her the teachings of Catholicism. She went home excited to share her findings with her family only to be scolded by her grandmother, who made Franco promise never to visit the church again.

That didn’t stop Franco. She kept asking questions about religion and politics, and when the answers didn’t match up with her own experiences, she became increasingly disillusioned with the Communist Party. During her final year of high school, she stood up at a meeting of the Communist Youth Union and renounced her membership. “I gave back my card and said, ‘I am done. I am not ready to be consistent with what this card means to you,’” she recalls.

Franco went on to attend college in Havana City, where as a freshman she joined a group of likeminded young people who shared her desire to change Cuba’s oppressive government. She and her friends each wrote and signed letters to Castro, calling for changes like democratic elections, freedom of speech and religion, and the freedom to travel outside of Cuba. As a result she was expelled from the university, ending her first attempt to earn a college degree, and suffered through interrogations and intimidation at the hands of Cuba’s political police.

Despite her family’s protests, Franco had also continued attending church. After getting married and giving birth to her daughter, she began attending classes to prepare for baptism. At first she went alone, but she soon began bringing her infant daughter along. Police would sometimes follow her to church, making sure she was aware of their presence, even sitting at the end of the pew during Mass. But Franco refused to be intimidated. She followed through on her plans to have Brito baptized and then, eventually, she too was baptized into the Catholic faith.

Then one day, in March of 1997, everything changed. The police came to Franco’s house and forced their way in. They gave her two choices: leave the country, or give up her daughter to be raised in the Communist system while she and her husband went to jail. “That was the ultimatum,” she says. “When they left, my decision was already made.”

Stranger in a strange land
Franco made the only choice she could. In May of 1997, she boarded a flight to Cancun, Mexico, with her husband and then three-year-old daughter. From there, they flew to Miami to begin a new life in America.

Franco took a job as a tobacco maker—“I was never good,” she admits—and started learning English. Eager to resume the education she began in Cuba, she started taking classes at a community college. But after separating from Brito’s father, Franco had to drop out of school and take a second job painting houses.

The twists and turns of life took Franco and Brito to new places, each one with new challenges. “When you move to a new environment, there is always a time of integration, a time of adaptation,” Franco says. “Those adaptations are difficult for everyone, but you know what? You get through. You just have a very defined goal and know how to get there, even if it is difficult. You maintain your steps, step by step, even if you find people that say ‘no, you’re not going to [succeed].’ You know you are, and that is the key.”

Although she’s easily understood, Franco still apologizes for her lack of fluency in English. Occasionally she pauses mid-sentence to translate a phrase from Spanish, or slips in a word or two in her native tongue. The language barrier has slowed her progress, but it never deterred her from continuing her education. After moving to Chicago in 2010, she enrolled at Wilbur Wright College. There, a professor gave her a copy of the Paulo Coelho novel The Alchemist and told her to spend 10 minutes every night before bed writing out the book by hand as a way to learn sentence structure. It worked. Her writing improved, and her educational journey continued.

At the same time, Franco was helping Brito prepare for college. They visited several local campuses, but Franco didn’t feel at home at any of them—“We were going to these for my future college career,” Brito interjects as a reminder. At one university, Franco describes having an overwhelming feeling of not being welcome. Another, she says, felt like a military bunker. Then they came to Loyola.

“When I arrived to Loyola, I felt at that moment that this is my place,” she recalls. “This is the place where I want to finish my studies.”

Brito wasn’t thrilled by this news, considering that she had also chosen to attend Loyola. But she also recognizes just how much her mother loves the University. When Franco completed her associate’s degree a year later, she remained true to her word. With the help of a transfer scholarship, she joined her daughter as a fellow Loyola student.

Like mother, like daughter?
Brito and Franco commute to campus each morning from their home on Chicago’s Northwest Side. Franco wakes up around 5:30, goes to the kitchen, and prepares her traditional cup of Cuban coffee (“It’s disgusting,” says Brito of her mom’s favorite beverage). Franco takes her time slowly sipping her coffee and tidying up the house, while Brito wakes up later and quickly gets ready to rush out the door. Often, she has to push her mother to leave on time.

“She takes forever,” Brito says.

“For me, drinking coffee is a ritual,” Franco replies.

“Twenty minutes!” clarifies Brito. “You’d think my mom would be the first out the door, but I’m always the one saying ‘Come on! We have to leave because we’re going to be late.’”

The odd-couple nature of their relationship reflects the unique bond the two share, a comfort level more like two old friends than a mother and her college-age daughter. Both find humor in the sometimes awkward moments that have arisen out of their situation. When seeing her mother across the quad, for example, Brito wasn’t sure whether to call out “Mom” or “Tamara” to get her attention (it turns out “Tamara” worked better). The two took one class together, and Brito found herself admonishing her mother for making too much noise snacking during the lecture. Franco would sometimes forget to do the homework and ask her daughter if she’d done it, to which Brito would respond, “Yes, but shouldn’t this be the other way around—you do the homework and I ask you?”

Though both were students in the College of Arts and Sciences— Brito majoring in political science and religious studies, Franco studying anthropology and philosophy—they were able to maintain their independence and respect each other’s space. But Brito never tried to avoid her mom on campus. “I’m not the kind of person who’d say we’re not going to have any kind of relationship while we’re in school,” she says. “You know, I’d miss seeing her around.”

As they approach graduation, both reflect on how far they’ve come. Brito made up her mind at age 6 as to what she wanted to do with her life. Watching her parents go through a divorce, she told her mother, “I’m going to become a lawyer one day so I can defend you in court.” Now she plans to take a gap year to study for the LSAT and apply to law schools, with Loyola being one possible destination.

Franco, who completed her degree requirements in the fall but will walk with her daughter at commencement in May, is one step closer to her dream of being a college professor. She had no question about where she wanted to continue her studies, and has recently been accepted to the Master of Divinity program at Loyola's Institute of Pastoral Studies.

“I don’t see myself outside of Loyola,” she says. “It’s like an extension of me.”

It’s possible both will remain at Loyola as they continue their education, but for now they are more focused on graduation day. To make the moment even more meaningful, Franco’s mother, whom she has not seen in two decades, will travel from Cuba to witness both her daughter and granddaughter graduate. It will be the first time Brito has met her grandmother, or at least the first time she can remember since leaving Cuba as a toddler.

It’s going to an emotional day for Franco, who will finally receive the college degree she’s tirelessly pursued for most of her adult life. To do it alongside her daughter, who has been by Franco’s side through all of her struggles, is one of those unpredictable moments in life that fills her with joy and pride. Brito is her legacy, Franco says, and she just hopes she’s set a good example.

“If I can show my daughter that you never—even if things are so difficult—you never give up,” she says, “then my job as a mother has been well done.”

Brito has indeed been paying attention, quietly observing every step of the way. “I admire the fact that she’s come so far,” Brito says. For a moment, she sets aside the gentle teasing and turns to look her mother in the eyes.

“Even though I don’t say it a lot,” Brito tells Franco, “I am very proud of you.”

Elizabeth Czapski (BA ’17) contributed to this story.

Super connector


Alumna Jessica Kubasak (BS ’03, BA ’05) uses Skype to connect with a Loyola student she met through LUConnect, an online platform that allows students to seek career advice from alumni. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

A new online platform is helping students tap into an incredible resource for career advice: Loyola's vast network of alumni

By Jenny Kustra-Quinn

Loyola senior Nikki Devens knew she wanted to pursue a career in law. But there are a lot of options within the field, and Devens wasn’t quite sure which area she wanted to focus on. Getting advice from practicing lawyers proved difficult, since most were too busy with their own workloads to make time to talk to a college student.

Then Devens discovered LUConnect, a growing online platform that gave her access to a vast network of Loyola alumni willing to provide exactly the kind of perspective the aspiring lawyer was seeking. She ended up contacting six different lawyers—all Loyola alumni who had signed up with LUConnect. All were happy to have a conversation with a fellow Loyolan looking to break into the legal profession.

Devens asked them what they wish they had done as undergraduates to better prepare for law school, and she gained helpful insight on what life is like for law students and lawyers. When she talked to a lawyer who specializes in immigration justice, “a light bulb went off,” Devens says. “And I just knew this was what I wanted to do.” It has been her focus ever since.

Most college students grapple with the same kinds of life-changing questions—what their first step should be on the career path, whether to go to graduate school—and LUConnect is making it easier for students to navigate these questions with support and guidance from alums who have been there and done that. An easy-to-navigate website allows students to quickly find alumni who share their interests and have already committed to helping students in the same position they were once in: trying to figure out how to transition from college to career.

After a soft launch a year ago and a hard launch in the spring, LUConnect has more than 850 registered participants. Students and alumni are asked to create profiles and each group can determine the extent of their interactions, which can range from a mentoring relationship to a one-time conversation or e-mail exchange. Either way, the goal is for students to come away armed with the information to make well-informed decisions about their future.

The alumni—known as “champions”—are experts in hundreds of fields and can advise students on things like finding their first job or determining if the career they are seeking is really right for them. Alumni who create profiles can also connect with one another if they are looking for a new job or are thinking about switching careers.

LUConnect is kind of like “LinkedIn meets Match.com,” says Brian Kurth (MA ’92), who created the software platform and donated it to the University. “You can reach out to someone on LinkedIn, but there are no guarantees they’ll respond,” says Kurth, founder and CEO of Revere Software. “The advisors on LUConnect have signed on to share their expertise and best practices and can’t wait to do so.”

Kathryn Jackson, director of Loyola’s Career Development Center, agrees that the availability and enthusiasm of alumni champions are crucial to the success of the program, which is facilitated through partnerships between the Career Development Center, Alumni Relations, and Information Technology Services. Networking can be overwhelming if you have a massive group of people to sift through, Jackson says, and students can quickly lose confidence in the process. But with LUConnect, students find mentors who are targeted to their situations and very likely to respond. “It’s not just a database of names,” she says. “It’s a real learning laboratory.”

Many of the conversations that take place through LUConnect are examples of “flash mentorship,” according to Kurth, who has himself mentored students on being an entrepreneur. Long-term mentoring “can be stifling for millennials,” he says. “They’d rather get a variety of perspectives and do it on their own timeline.” However, he adds, long-term coaching is still a possibility through LUConnect in cases where a student and an alum are open to it.

Many students find LUConnect especially helpful in areas where professionals are busy or overworked, as Devens discovered with lawyers. The same is true in the medical field, making LUConnect popular at the Stritch School of Medicine. Stritch student Nathan Pecoraro (BS ’15) helps lead a Stritch mentoring program that uses the platform to connect about 200 medical students with undergrads looking for guidance. Many discussions involve the medical school’s Early Assurance Program, and sophomores have asked Pecoraro to review their applications to make sure they’re on the right track.

Having been a Loyola undergrad who went through the process himself, Pecoraro is able to offer valuable advice to students on getting accepted to medical school. “It can be an intimidating process,” he says. “Students want to know how they can compete against 10,000 applicants.”

His advice is simple: “Do what you love to do, not just what you think will help you get into medical school. We’re all unique, and we all took diverse paths. You don’t have to put on a fake version of yourself to be a good applicant.” Pecoraro hopes that mentoring through LUConnect will eliminate barriers that might discourage younger students. “You shouldn’t give up on your dreams,” he says.

On the other hand, mentors can help a student change course if he or she is heading down a path that might not be the best fit. Until recently, senior anthropology major Judy Kyrkos was thinking about medical school. Talking to alumni made her aware of other opportunities to get involved in health care, some of which are a better match for her interests. She decided to attend graduate school and pursue public health or a more research-based field.

“The med students were really honest and up front about things like the work load and the realities of the financial burden,” says Kyrkos, adding that she might still attend medical school after receiving her graduate degree.

Jessica Kubasak (BS ’03, BA ’05), a child life specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, says it’s important for students to learn that school and careers don’t always take a “straight and narrow path.” She’s a good example of this, as she prepares to go back to school and transition into a new career in physical therapy.

Kubasak says mentoring can give students clarity and possibly point them in a direction that differs from what they had envisioned. She has communicated with a few students through LUConnect and has asked them to really think about what they enjoy doing with their time.

“When you’re 18, we tell you to choose a major and do that for the rest of your life. But even if you have a firm idea of what you want to do, life doesn’t always work out that way,” she says. “So I ask students to do some real soul searching.”

Jackson says LUConnect is quickly building momentum with students, who like that the service is free, online, accessible 24/7, and even available to those studying abroad. At the same time it offers flexibility to alumni who wish to serve as champions. “Alumni can choose how much time they want to devote, and they can communicate via phone, Skype, e-mail, or in person,” Jackson says. “It’s a nice way to give back.”

That’s a message that has resonated with Devens, who is already thinking of how she can assist future Loyola students who are pondering the same kinds of career decisions that alumni mentors have helped her tackle. “The people I’ve talked to have helped me with big decisions,” she says, “and I would love to pay it forward and be there for the next group of students.”

Sign up to be a champion or learn more about LUConnect at LUC.edu/LUConnect.

The art of marketing


Quinlan School of Business senior Anna Tonarely stands outside the Museum of Contemporary Art, where she completed a marketing internship during the fall semester. (Photo: Heather Eidson)

Intern profile

At Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Quinlan senior Anna Tonarely had an opportunity to put her marketing skills to the test

By Adriana Geday ('17)

Quinlan School of Business senior Anna Tonarely is passionate about experiential marketing—creating in-person experiences that bring brands and consumers together. Last semester, Tonarely found a perfect internship for refining these marketing skills at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Here, Anna shares her experience and how she hopes to apply these skills to her future as she approaches graduation.  

What attracted you to this internship?

I heard about the special and rental events internship with the Museum of Contemporary Art during my freshman year, and I instantly knew this would be an ideal fit for me. It combined both my interest in event planning and my marketing education.

What interests you about working in museums?

Before this internship, I was a sales and event marketing intern with Michigan Avenue magazine and assisted with promotional event planning and marketing. I wanted to expand my knowledge and experience in event coordination, so naturally a position at a museum would offer these experiences. Also interning with MCA, a museum I have loved since moving to Chicago, had great benefits like being able to go on curator-led tours of new exhibitions, discounts in their amazing store, and free admission to the MCA during my time as an intern.

What did you work on at the MCA?

While at the MCA, I worked on everything from marketing materials, including a blog post and event marketing e-mails, to researching and maintaining client files and databases to assisting with one of the museums largest fundraising events, Vernissage, the opening night preview of EXPO CHICAGO at Navy Pier. The work was truly different every day, making the experience both enjoyable and helpful in identifying what I want in a future career.

What’s something you are proud to have accomplished there?

Of all the work I did during this internship, I am especially proud of a blog post I worked on for MCA DNA. The Special and Rental Events department was interested in producing materials to market the museum as a rental events venue, specifically for weddings, and asked me to help create something special.

During my entire internship period, I worked with the social media team and my supervisors on creating this blog post that highlighted why the museum is a unique and beautiful place to celebrate a wedding. After it was completed and posted, it was added to the rental events page, something that I am definitely hopeful will increase rental bookings at the MCA in the future.

What was your favorite part of the MCA?

The blog and the great people I was able to interact with made my experience at MCA. It would also be a mistake not to mention how amazing it was to be a part of Vernissage. I consider myself incredible lucky that I was able to not only help in the planning process of this event, but actually attend it.   

How do you think this internship will help you with your career?

I loved my experiences with the MCA, as it taught me a lot about what interests me and what doesn’t, in terms of my future career. Through this internship, I realized that I am not interested in coordinating personal events like weddings and definitely more interested in promotional event planning for brands.

The MCA had an amazing culture with unique people and the museum truly values their employees and their experiences. I am hopeful I will find these same workplace ideals in a future career.

An old-school approach to a modern challenge

Ignatius discourse

Some wise words from St. Ignatius on 'dealing with others' might be just the advice we need in today's polarized society

In a letter to fellow Jesuits before the Council of Trent written all the way back in 1546, St. Ignatius offered some sage advice on "dealing with others"—particularly those who hold different opinions. Some of these tips from Ignatius still hold true, and following them could do much to improve our present-day conversations:

• Be slow to speak. Be considerate and kind, especially when it comes to deciding on matters under discussion . . . Be slow to speak, and only after having first listened quietly, so that you may understand the meaning, leanings, and wishes of those who do speak. Thus you will better know when to speak and when to be silent.

• When these or other matters are under discussion, I should consider the reasons on both sides without showing any attachment to my own opinion, and try to avoid bringing dissatisfaction to anyone.

• I should not cite anyone as supporting my opinion, especially if they are persons of importance, unless this has been thoroughly arranged beforehand. And I would deal with everyone on an equal basis, never taking sides with anyone.

• If the matters being discussed are of such a nature that you cannot or ought not to be silent, then give your opinion with the greatest possible humility and sincerity, and always end with the words salvo meliori iudicio—with due respect for a better opinion.”

Read more about Loyola's efforts to improve civil discourse

Suspending discipline

suspending discipline research
School of Law/School of Education

Punishments that remove students from school can do more harm than good. Two Loyola professors are working to find a more positive approach.

By Anna Gaynor

Finding research showing the consequences of suspensions and expulsions isn’t difficult. The role of discipline in the school-to-prison pipeline has become a national talking point for educators and legislators. There is, however, limited data showing schools what might work better.

Pamela Fenning, a professor in the School of Education, and Miranda Johnson, director of Loyola’s Education Law and Policy Institute, are making it their mission to address what they call exclusionary discipline, or punishments that take students out of school. “You need to think about what’s happening with those young people in school and how foundational education is to their life outcomes,” says Johnson, an attorney who has handled school discipline and special education cases in New York and Chicago. “From working with students individually and hearing their stories, I think for many of them school is one of the few safe places that they have in their lives.”

In addition to showing that students can feel more isolated and fall behind in schoolwork, research has found that just one suspension in ninth grade can affect a student’s likelihood of graduating or attending college. But discipline often begin much earlier—Fenning says that some are starting to use the term “cradle-to-prison pipeline” based on suspension data in preschool.

As students get older, they often start acting out more in class—either out frustration or to hide that they’re struggling academically. Getting suspended for that misbehavior, however, just lets them fall further behind, exasperating the problem.

Collaborating for change

To start addressing these issues, recent Illinois legislation will change how students are disciplined in schools starting this fall—and Fenning and Johnson’s research, recently published in the Children’s Legal Rights Journal, is hoping to show administrators just how to handle that change.

Both professors helped found the Transforming School Discipline Collaborative, which brings together attorneys, school psychologists, policy advocates, and other community partners to help school districts lower the number of suspensions and expulsions. A large part of that work has been developing a standard set of guidelines for educators and administrators to help misbehaving students, not just punish them.

The new Illinois law will limit the length of student suspensions and expulsions and require school administrators to release data categorizing which students are being disciplined. “What our collaborative would like to see happen is that districts not only comply with the strict letter of the law,” says Johnson, “but also incorporate the decades-long research on the negative impacts of exclusionary discipline together with the emerging research on promising practices to do discipline differently.”

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a discipline program that works. But the collaborative’s “Model Student Code of Conduct” provides administrators with a framework based on the latest research.

A better approach

Fenning, who worked as a school psychologist before coming to Loyola more than 20 years ago, has conducted a number of studies looking at the issue of school suspension and discipline. Her research has looked at policies, high rates of disproportionality in discipline, alternatives to out-of-school punishments, and ways to address behavior in a more proactive way.

In any given school, the code of conduct outlines its policies on student behavior and discipline guidelines—but rarely are they uniform in how they deal with offenses. The collaborative’s model student code addresses a number of issues, specifically preventing students from being suspended for minor offenses; asking administrators to look for a root cause to student misbehavior; and preventing more vulnerable groups—such African American boys, those with disabilities, and LGBT students—from being disproportionately punished.

This summer, Fenning, Johnson, and others from the collaborative are leading training sessions across the state for school administrators, and they are putting finishing touches on a toolkit that will offer additional resources and information on topics like restorative justice, implicit bias, new discipline strategies, and data collection and analysis. 

“When schools start excluding students, it leaves them feeling like they have no good options and no real future,” says Johnson. “I think that is both dangerous for our communities to have young people feeling that sense of hopelessness and also a sad testament to what school should be.”

Teachable moments

Teachable moments

Above, School of Education student Katina Tole, a 2016 President's Medallion recipient, teaches an algebra class at Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois. Below, sophomore Erin Cunnea works with students at St. Benedict School in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood. Both Loyola students are part of collaborative partnerships between the School of Education and local community schools in Chicago. (Photos: Natalie Battaglia)

Inside classrooms at schools on Chicago’s North Side, Loyola students and faculty are helping to advance education—and learning valuable lessons in the process

By Maura Sullivan Hill

When Symone Smith arrived at Edgewater’s Nicholas Senn High School in the fall of 2013, she was a quiet freshman who had never envisioned journalism as a potential career path. Then she enrolled in Senn’s digital journalism program. Today, Smith is a senior, juggling college applications and homework with her spot as an anchor on the school newscast. She wants to be a broadcast journalist and even hopes to host her own television show someday.

“Before this program, I didn’t know anything about journalism,” she says. “[Now] having an idea for a story, like a profile piece or a feature, and then doing every step to put my story out—interview, film, and edit it—is very rewarding.”

Senn’s digital journalism program is one component of a successful partnership between the high school and Loyola’s School of Education that started in 2011. Since then, the partnership has served as a model as Loyola revamped its curriculum and partnered with more local schools. In 2013, the School of Education launched its redesigned teacher preparation program—known as Teaching, Learning, and Leading with Schools and Communities—with a focus on field-based, urban education.

“Almost all courses happen in school sites, community organizations, or cultural institutions,” says Ann Marie Ryan, the associate dean of academic programs in the School of Education. “We’re committed to preparing teachers in urban settings.”

Loyola currently has more than 50 partnerships with local schools—including Chicago public schools, Catholic schools, and independent schools—which serve as a training ground for the Loyola students and an opportunity for the partner schools to tap into the University’s resources and expertise. These community-building efforts are part of Loyola’s Lake Shore Community Partners initiative, a component of “Plan 2020: Building a More Just, Humane, and Sustainable World,” the University’s five-year strategic plan.

The heart of these partnerships is that they are mutually beneficial. “We don’t want it to be a one-way relationship, where Loyola is only considering what resources to share,” says Jon Schmidt, coordinator of the partnership with Senn and a clinical assistant professor in the School of Education. “We’re asking, ‘What do they have to share with us? How can our students learn and grow through this partnership?’”

Senn students enroll in one of four programs at the school: an international baccalaureate (IB) program (similar to an honors or advanced placement track), an audition-in arts program, STEM, and the digital journalism program. Loyola takes an active role in supporting the IB, STEM, and the digital journalism program, which began in 2013.

Michael Cullinane, the journalism and marketing director at Senn, is completing a master’s degree in digital storytelling at Loyola. He wrote Senn’s program curriculum alongside Loyola journalism faculty, and it includes both print and broadcast journalism classes and reporting for the Senn Times, the school’s online newspaper, and SennTV, their YouTube news channel. In the classroom, Cullinane emphasizes the importance of telling stories.

“[The journalism students] take ownership of it and they really enjoy it,” he says. “It’s been really awesome to see what young people can do with some encouragement. It doesn’t always have to be worksheets and tests, it can be giving them the right tools and letting them make the products that, in the end, can hopefully inspire others.”

Senn also plays host to Loyola classes for observation and student teaching internships, with their teachers and the Loyola students exchanging ideas and learning from each other. “It is a true partnership,” says Mary Beck, Senn’s principal. “Our students flourish because they have the ability to go to Loyola to use their library and journalism facilities. They feel connected to Loyola from freshman year on, and I think that’s really powerful.”

This connection is powerful on an abstract, personal level, but there is also data that affirms the positive effect of this partnership. Schmidt points out that Senn is trending upward in nearly every metric, including overall school attendance. “It’s unusual to see an increase in students, especially at a local, neighborhood high school,” he says. “And it is pretty significant.”

The school’s success was also reflected in the most recent ranking of the best public schools in the city by Chicago magazine. Senn was named one of Chicago’s top three neighborhood schools and made the top 20 high schools list, coming in at number 12. The ranking was especially important, Beck says, because it took into account not only attainment scores and college acceptance numbers but also the school’s significant growth.

“Five years ago, when this partnership started, we were not in the top 12,” she says. “So it is a testament to the hard work of the teachers and students in this building. The support of Loyola has been fantastic and really led to this.”

According to Cullinane, the partnership with Loyola has created an atmosphere of hope and inspiration at Senn. “Loyola has been a beacon for us and the students aspire to go there,” he says. “When we visit Loyola, the students get excited about college.”

Schmidt agrees, noting an increase in applications to Loyola from Senn seniors. Last year, 140 Senn students out of a class of 300—nearly 50 percent of the class—applied to Loyola. That’s a dramatic increase from even a few years ago.
The Senn High School Scholars Program is another component of the partnership, and offers tuition assistance to at least five outstanding Senn students each year who attend Loyola. Juanito Boligor graduated from Senn’s IB program in 2015 and is now in his sophomore year at Loyola as a Senn High School Scholar.

Boligor is both humble and grateful when talking about the partnership between Senn and Loyola. He knew he wanted to go to college, but wasn’t sure how his family could afford the expense until he heard about the scholarship program. “I felt like, in the sea of students throughout the country, there was no way that a university would give an immigrant student from a Chicago public high school a scholarship,” he says.

“But after hearing that the seniors in the graduation class ahead of me received substantial scholarships from Loyola, I knew that every decision I made from that moment on was to get that scholarship. The partnership made me incredibly driven and focused; the partnership gave me a chance.”

And Boligor is not the only one. At St. Benedict Preparatory School, a pre-K through 12th grade parish school in the North Center neighborhood, a number of students do not speak English as their first language and need extra assistance in the classroom. In 2014, St. Benedict implemented their first English language learner support class—a direct result of their partnership with Loyola.

One of the main courses in the School of Education’s teacher preparation program focuses on English language learning (ELL) and special education. The Loyola students conduct an in-depth research project that assesses the learning strengths and weaknesses of ELL students. Applying their own research and the expertise of their education professors, Loyola students present a case study to the teachers at the end of the semester, with recommendations about how best to work with each ELL student to meet his or her needs.

“From [this research project], we realized we needed to do more to support the English language learners we had on campus,” says Rachel Gemo, St. Benedict’s head of the parish school. “We were actually able to design a class based on what we learned from the Loyola students.”

St. Benedict, or St. Ben’s as it is affectionately known, has been involved with the Partners for Education initiative since the start, and before that St. Ben’s was a host school for Loyola student teachers. Today, St. Ben’s hosts Loyola students and faculty in some capacity every day. Education professors bring their students to to observe classes as early as freshman year, and several Loyola students complete their required yearlong student teaching internship at St. Ben’s.

In their first semester, Loyola students will work alongside a cooperating teacher. By their second semester they are ready to lead the class. “It is a scaffolding approach,” says David Ensminger, associate professor and program chair for teaching and learning in the School of Education. “Our candidates have the opportunity to get to know their students by co-teaching first and then taking over the classroom.”

For Ensmigner, the advantage of this field-based approach is that students can see the lessons they learn in the classroom come to life. He recalls a visit after finishing a chapter on English language learners: “If I had been teaching that class on campus, we might have done a video or a written case, which is beneficial. But when the Loyola students are in a school watching a teacher work with a group of students who are English language learners, that textbook comes to life,” he says.

“It fits Loyola’s broader mission of preparing people for action. The more we can make a connection between conceptual and theoretical knowledge, the more students are going to act on that knowledge.”

Senior Gianna Marshall is completing her student teaching internship at St. Ben’s this year, in the third grade classroom of Loyola alumna Rachel Nemes (BS ’11). Marshall feels ready to take over as third grade teacher next semester thanks to the many hours she has already spent in classroom settings throughout her four years at Loyola.

“We are put into that role [in the classroom] very quickly,” she says. “On the second day of my freshman year, I was in a high school helping juniors prepare for the ACT. This year, I feel very comfortable in front of the classroom and creating lessons.”

The St. Ben’s students benefit from the extra help and attention, and veteran teachers can even learn a thing or two from Loyola students. Nancy Feely (MEd ’05, MEd ’11), a Loyola School of Education alum who earned master’s degrees in elementary education and instructional leadership, says having teacher candidates in the classroom helps push St. Ben’s teachers to reflect on and refine their own approach. It is in effect a form of continuing education.

“The student teachers and student observers from Loyola are learning fresh, new things. They have access to the newest methods in reading instruction, or new philosophies on social justice teaching,” Feely explains. “They are sharing some of the most up-to-date practices on education policies and methods with our teachers.”

Another component of the partnership is a dual-credit course in British literature, offered to seniors, which can count as a college-level course at Loyola and other universities. Loyola vets the syllabus and supports the teacher to ensure that the course is up to the academic standards of a college-level class.

Going forward, members of the School of Education are offering their expertise and assistance as St. Ben’s works on a new strategic plan and vision for the future. It’s a perfect fit, says Gemo, because the two schools have such closely aligned goals.

“The mission of Loyola is that they want their teachers to be able to teach every kid,” she says. “And that really fits with us, because we believe that each child can learn. When you match from mission, everything else just fits naturally.”

Loyola’s commitment to urban education also extends into the communities where the schools are located. “Loyola, and the School of Education in particular, is really working to be ever more deeply embedded in our communities, with really deep commitments to social justice,“ says Schmidt, the coordinator of the Senn partnership. “We are putting experiences in place that encourage and support students who then, we hope, are making decisions to teach in cities.”

Ensminger wants his students to understand not only the impact that schools have on communities, but their role in that impact as a teacher. “One of the underlying principles of our programs is that we try to support neighborhood schools, and you can’t support neighborhood schools without considering the community that they are in,” he says. “What we are doing, in very systematic and purposeful ways, is to support the schools in our area—and the communities themselves.”

Read more about the other initiatives of Loyola's Lake Shore Community Partners

The long goodbye


A highly detailed carved effigy of the deceased is created as a part of the traditional funeral practice of the Toraja people. Below, the Toraja funeral includes a ritual procession of the body of the deceased and the carved effigy to its viewing pavilion for the duration of the funeral. (Photos courtesy of Kathleen Adams)

One culture’s unique rituals for the dead have a lot to teach us about life

By Anna Gaynor

It’s hard not to be sensational when describing Kathleen Adams’s research. For the past 30 years, this anthropology professor has been studying a small Indonesian community, Toraja, which has become something of a tourist destination for the adventurous. Visitors, however, aren’t just coming to see its stunning limestone cliffs or rich art traditions—but rather its unique rituals honoring the dead.

A Toraja funeral can last days, host thousands of visitors, include effigies of the dead, feature water buffalo fights and sacrifices, and sometimes require mile-long processions through a village. “It’s not that they subscribe to a vastly different religious worldview,” Adams says. “That kind of relationship and familiarity with the realm of death, I think, really appeals to foreign tourists because it’s something we tend to segregate out from our everyday lives.”

The majority of the Toraja people practice Christianity, but the pageantry of their burial rituals remains a holdover from when they practiced the “Way of the Ancestors.” This includes keeping the bodies of loved ones for weeks, and sometimes years, in the home.

Toraja people also have a ritual that entails periodically cleaning the graves and sometimes bodies of their deceased loved ones, even years after the funeral. These rituals, says Adams, can often be misunderstood.

“What started happening, as best as I can piece together, was migrants who had moved to Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia, who were often second-generation migrants, were coming back,” Adams says. “The city folk would want a picture next to their deceased relatives, and the images started circulating on Facebook. Toraja became suddenly internationally associated with this idea of the ‘walking dead’ and zombies.”

It’s easy to get caught up in the strange juxtaposition—an online search reveals photos of tourists and family members taking selfies with a beautifully dressed and decayed body. But once Adams starts talking about Toraja, she opens up about a community that sees its relationship with the deceased as something that doesn’t stop at death.

Starting in 1984, Adams spent nearly two years in the region conducting Fulbright-sponsored dissertation research on the effects of tourism and globalization. She stayed with a host family, who would eventually come to know her as their adopted daughter. During her time there and her semi-regular trips back, Adams has seen many funerals, including both her adoptive father’s and mother’s, and knows very well the work that goes into them.

“People will wait a year, two years, even five years to have a funeral because these rituals draw thousands of guests,” Adams says. “You have to build almost a mini village to house everybody and to stage the funeral. If kids are away at school or if family members have migrated halfway across the world, they must work together to find a suitable date and amass the resources needed for the funeral.”

During all of that planning, the body of the deceased loved one is kept at home. When Adams’s adoptive mother died, the family cared for her body in bed for about nine months while they planned the service. “They gave her tea by her bedside. They ritually fed her, and traditionally people talk about that period as a time when the deceased is ‘sleeping,’ ” Adams says.

For her adoptive mother’s funeral, which lasted 10 days, Adams says about 75 smaller pavilions were built to house everyone. At the start of the ritual, guests arrive in extended family groups, often in a procession of 50 to 100 people. All the women and men in the group might have coordinating sarongs, while other men carry rice or lead in pigs and water buffalo.

The body and a carved effigy were carried throughout the village as part of the funeral, which concluded with her adoptive mother’s coffin being sealed in a tomb. The effigy was then placed next to her husband’s so they can remain side by side. “The traditional belief was that one of your souls would remain with the effigy and the other soul would go on to the next world or afterlife, where you would live with all your relatives and the water buffalos as your wealth,” Adams says.

After the funeral, the Toraja people traditionally continue to honor the deceased, bringing them gifts like money, beer, and candy. In exchange, the soul of the deceased watches over them. “There was this ongoing discourse between the world of the living and the world of the dead,” she says.

Less wealthy members of the community hold simpler, more condensed funerals. Their ritual starts much sooner after death, and there may be only one water buffalo sacrifice, not the 20 to 50 that might occur during an elite individual’s funeral.

Adams finds that tourists and the media have a tendency to treat the Toraja beliefs as alien and exotic. They see the traditional dress and rituals of a funeral, but they don’t always see the same people later wearing modern clothes and glued to their phones like anyone else.

In reality, the Toraja community is one that values its relationships with family—and a funeral is the place where they can pay the ultimate respect to their loved ones. “There are some things to be learned from a society that is so comfortable with death,” Adams says. “I think we would all be a lot more comfortable facing the ends of our lives with those kinds of open practices.”

And although those practices may look different from ours on the surface, Adams sees a lot of similarities. “We care deeply for our families and we are concerned about the big questions of existence, life and death, and how to make a life meaningful. For me that’s been an important lesson: not to let the surface differences alienate us from one another.”

More than kids play

Edgewater Kids United

Loyola students Mikayla Davis (left) and Aliyah Jervier (right) spend time with local teen Deshanti (center) during a recent gathering of Edgewater Kids United.

Loyola students and local teens have found a perfect way to spend Friday nights

By Elizabeth Czapski ('17)

Every Friday from 5 to 9 p.m., about 50 middle and high school students from Edgewater, Rogers Park, and Uptown gather to play games, get homework help, and hang out with friends. Among those friends are Loyola students who choose to spend their Friday nights shooting hoops or lending an ear to kids from the community.

The two groups are brought together by Edgewater Kids United, a unique mentorship program launched last October by Loyola and Sacred Heart Schools. “We noticed when working with the alderman and the other local schools that the middle school kids in the neighborhood—given the increased violence and gang activity—were more at risk,” says Bridget Couture, director of Inclusion and Community Engagement at Sacred Heart School in Edgewater.

Confident they had the skills to address this problem, Couture partnered with Bridget Wesley, director for Student Transitions and Outreach at Loyola, and Antonio Thomas, a counselor with the Becoming a Man program at Swift and Goudy Elementary Schools, to develop the program.

The group usually meets at Sacred Heart, but on nights when the school is being used for other events they move to Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus. Loyola students play a key role, serving as mentors to the teens. “It’s been an amazing gift to the kids to have mentors who are older but still relatable,” says Couture.

George Roussakio, a senior political science major at Loyola, found out about Edgewater Kids United from a friend and has been serving as a college coach ever since. Seeing how much the kids get out of the program motivates him to keep coming back.

“We create opportunities for kids to succeed because, unfortunately, the communities do not open the doors for them,” he says. “In one way or another, all of the kids are extremely talented and they have a lot of potential.”

The program is designed to be whatever the kids involved want it to be, which ensures they will want to continue to come every week. Wesley explains that it emphasizes a “neutral safe space” where kids can connect with each other despite outside conflicts like gang affiliations. Daily life can be challenging and wear on kids, she says, so one goal of the program is to relieve them of that burden.

“We made the decision early on that this was going to be an explicitly warm and loving program,” says Wesley. “And I think we’ve seen how much the kids not only come to expect it but appreciate it. They bring their best, wonderful, goofy selves—it’s really kind of beautiful to see.”

Edgewater Kids United also helps kids feel “known” in the community, Couture says. They visit nearby businesses so kids can become familiar with local business owners. “The more we can engage children who are not visiting those places on a regular basis, the better our community will be as a whole,” she says.

Another benefit is building positive relationships between Loyola and people in the area, says Wesley.

“Starting with the children is a good step towards having families understand and believe that the University cares about them and wants to be a good neighbor to them,” Wesley says. She also stresses the importance of kids feeling like they belong on a college campus. “This can really shift their mindset about what their own future might hold.”

Formula for success

Barbara Skrzypeck

Barbara Skrzypeck works inside Cudahy Science Hall on the Lake Shore Campus after returning from her summer internship at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Intern profile

Barbara Skrzypeck felt right at home working alongside some of the world's leading scientists in Switzerland

By Tasha Neumeister

To say senior Barbara Skrzypeck had the experience of a lifetime last summer may be an understatement. Skrzypeck, a physics and mathematics major, spent time with the world’s leading scientists in Geneva, Switzerland, at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN—the birthplace of the World Wide Web. She was one of only 17 U.S. undergraduate students chosen for the prestigious research program.

What attracted you to this internship?
First, I wanted to get a taste of high-energy physics because most of the work I do here at Loyola is theoretical and research-based. Second, it’s CERN. It’s the center of experimental high energy physics, and it’s known for the Higgs boson, which won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2013. CERN is a place where you have a collaboration of scientists from all over the world. I was really excited to be a part of that.

What did you work on at CERN?
I worked on the ATLAS project, which is one of the experiments currently running at CERN. It’s an experimental collaboration that looks at proton-proton collisions. I was working on modifying the particle flow algorithm that aims to improve jet reconstruction in the ATLAS detector. My job was to look at one part of the algorithm, which is traffic extrapolation, and to try to find a way to make it more efficient.

What’s something interesting you learned there?
I discovered what working in experimental physics looks like: It was a lot of collaboration. I gave six presentations over two months, and most of those were to the particle flow community and the ATLAS group. I was able to see how the work of experimentalists is highly interactive and collaborative.

How do you think this internship will help you in your career?
It’s opened up a lot of opportunities for me in experimental physics. And particle physics is something that I am now pursuing as I look at grad schools. Beforehand I didn’t have as much research experience outside of Loyola. Now, I have a taste of various other aspects of physics that I didn’t know about before.

What was your favorite part of working at CERN?
I really enjoyed getting to know the scientists. Also, learning about high-energy physics and the technical aspects of the detector. During lunch breaks, everyone would go out and talk about physics. Unlike going to class for an hour, I had a different kind of exposure by interacting with scientists.

If you could work on any physics experiment, what would it be?
That’s a really hard question. Ideally I’d like to contribute to theory and experiment. For the time being, I’d love to go back to CERN. I’ve gotten really interested in what I learned there, and there’s still so much more to learn.

Reaching across cultures

Service learning

Senior Jenna Severson, far left, at the Yabonga youth center in Cape Town, South Africa, with friends (from left) Aphiwe Kewuti, Mihlali Mbana, Eric Bafo, and Sindiswa Koyo.

Service overseas gives students a broad view of the world around them

By Elizabeth Czapski ('17)

When Jenna Severson walked down the streets of Khayelitsha, a township in Cape Town, South Africa, it was clear she wasn’t one of the locals. The community is exclusively black and largely impoverished, the result of years of apartheid that pushed people of color to the outskirts of the city. Residents immediately took notice of Severson, a white, American woman, and would yell things at her in isiXhosa, the predominant language in the area, as she walked by.

Severson’s desire to engage with the community lead her to learn some isiXhosa, so she would yell back. “It was fun to throw off that expectation of who people thought I was,” she says.

Severson, a senior double majoring in women’s and gender studies and English, traveled to Cape Town as part of the South Africa Service Learning Program in collaboration with Marquette University. She worked at Yabonga, an NGO that helps children and families affected by HIV/AIDS, where her duties involved everything from facilitating youth programs and workshops to visiting homes to gauge people’s concerns or help them fill out paperwork. In the process, she says she learned to adjust her expectations of what it means to serve.

“If you want to do service, you can’t go in expecting to make a difference. You have to go in expecting to learn,” Severson says.

She took that idea and ran with it, learning the names of everyone she worked with and making an effort to learn new words in isiXhosa daily.

Through a partnership with the University of the Western Cape, Loyola students have an opportunity to be immersed in South African culture. It is one of many destinations abroad—including Rome, Ho Chi Minh City, and Manila—where Loyola students can live the Jesuit mission through service.

The South Africa Service Learning Program requires courses on apartheid and local community development. Through those classes and conversations with fellow students, Severson was able to reflect more deeply on her own experience.

“We had intentional discussions all the time about race, about religion, about health care, about the economic situation in South Africa,” she says. It also helped her to appreciate the differences between the local culture and her own. “You have to really humble yourself and totally act and be there to serve what their needs are,” she says.

Hanna Munin, a senior advocacy and social change major, also found herself thinking differently about her own identity and worldview after participating in the service learning program in Cape Town. During her time there, Munin volunteered at a foster home twice a week.

Though she enjoyed taking engaged learning classes at Loyola, Munin says her study abroad experience gave her a new perspective. “To fully do a program somewhere else opens you up to creating connections between your culture and someone else’s,” she says. “And that was a really cool experience.”

Ceaira Walker chose a different continent for her service learning experience. The senior philosophy major worked at the Carmelite Clinic in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where she shadowed doctors and physical therapists as part of her semester.

Because most doctors and patients spoke only Vietnamese, Walker learned to find other ways to communicate. She says the experience helped her listen more fully to others and develop a stronger sense of empathy.

“I think empathy tends to be omitted from our daily busy lives because we’re all focused on one goal and forget to listen and understand each other because we’re so busy,” she says. “So for me, working at the clinic was extremely eye-opening because in the midst of all this chaos, somehow we all found time for each other and time to really connect with patients.”

Loyola study abroad advisor Annie Reagan says that the University is proud of its service learning programs because they provide cultural awareness and promote global advocacy.

“It really helps students understand their world and their local community a little bit more by comparing it to the world around them and their experiences abroad,” Reagan says. “That is at the heart of Jesuit education.”

Man with a mission

Father Prehn

James Prehn, S.J., is keeping a keen focus on Loyola's Jesuit mission

It was during his own college days that James Prehn, S.J., felt the call to join the Jesuits. Since entering the order in 1988, he has served in various roles at high schools and universities, including as a part-time faculty member and rector of the Jesuit community at Loyola.

This semester he’s taking on a new role: President Jo Ann Rooney, JD, LLM, EdD, has named Father Prehn vice president and special advisor to the president for mission and identity.

“My goal is to help Dr. Rooney succeed in whatever way I can,” he says. “I represent the Society of Jesus to the University, and it is very important to reassure everyone that the Jesuits aren’t going anywhere and that Dr. Rooney has our full support.”

As a member of the President’s Cabinet, Father Prehn will be focused on Loyola’s Jesuit mission, Catholic identity, and relationships with the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus. He will also continue to serve as rector of the Jesuit community at Loyola.

As a veteran of Jesuit education, Father Prehn believes that attending a Jesuit university is a distinctive experience—one that inspires students to reflect on their goals and on how they can change the world for the better.

“I have every confidence that it’s an education that does make a difference because of the reflection that is part and parcel of going to a Jesuit school,” says Father Prehn. “We hope that sense of the Ignatian mission seeps into the work that our faculty do, as well as students and staff—that everybody has the sense that they’re part of something larger than themselves.”  

Watch a video feature on Father Prehn

Better health through Bollywood dance


A cultural tradition may be the key to combating obesity in Asian Indian teen girls

By Zoë Fisher (’17)

Technology can sometimes distract teenagers from getting physical activity, but it can also be used to enhance it. Products and apps like Fit-Bit, Nike Running App and MyPlate aid in tracking health, and tech products are becoming increasingly involved in weight management. For Niehoff School of Nursing assistant professor Annie Thomas, PhD, RN, technology has also proven effective in monitoring obesity in Asian Indian female adolescents.

Thomas chose this specific population for several reasons. As a member of the Asian Indian community, she observed obesity among adolescents first-hand. Data also shows that one in five U.S. children is the child of an immigrant, and many of these children are at high risk of becoming overweight or obese. This is often due to cultural factors, Thomas says, such as parents emphasizing studying over exercise or diet.

In 2013, Thomas collected data from 20 female participants ages 14 to 18. She recruited them from her local church, St. Thomas Mar Thoma in Lombard, Illinois, and tracked their health behaviors for seven days.

Thomas’ research used an accelerometer and the web-based app SuperTracker to monitor the participants’ calorie intake and daily exercise. She found SuperTracker to be the most helpful diet monitoring website because of its incorporation of culturally-specific food. The website also provides physical activity suggestions and detailed nutritional information.

Thomas also addresses the concerns of Asian Indian parents about their children focusing on academics. Physical activity helps the mind, spirit, and body, she says, because exercise can lead to physical and academic benefits. A 2009 University of North Texas study found that students who had a healthier cardiovascular system did better in subjects like math and reading.

The next step for Thomas is intervention. “Physical activity is a medicine,” she says—and it should be culturally specific. After receiving $2,500 in grant funds from both the American Nursing Association and the Palmer Grant Program, Thomas is creating a program that uses Bollywood dancing to increase physical activity among female adolescents.

While activities like Zumba or just working out at a gym can be expensive or unappealing to teens, Thomas says Bollywood dancing is inexpensive, culturally appropriate, and can be done with a group—making it appealing to young Indian girls. And getting teenagers to pick an activity they enjoy is often the most important component in getting them to stick with a healthy lifestyle.

“Anything they do, they need motivation. If they’re not motivated it’s not going to happen,” Thomas says.

Cancer’s biggest enemy

Richard Pazdur

Above: Dr. Richard Pazdur (MD '76), pictured at the FDA offices in Washington, DC, is a leader in the approval of new cancer treatments in the United States. (Photo: Greg Dohler) Below: Pazdur and his late wife Mary both dealt with cancer on a daily basis in their professions, making them well aware of the struggles they would face when Mary was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. (Photo courtesy of Richard Pazdur)

For nearly two decades, Richard Pazdur has been the country’s key figure in approving new cancer treatments. But when his own wife was diagnosed with the dreaded disease, his job took on a whole new meaning

By Kristen Hannum

Richard Pazdur (MD '76) has been called the closest thing this country has to a “cancer czar.” As a leader in the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight of oncology treatments, Pazdur has wielded great power and influence in approving or denying new drug therapies for cancer. In 2015, his work at the FDA even landed him on Fortune magazine’s list of the 50 greatest world leaders. But for Pazdur, 2015 will be remembered for a much more significant event—the loss of his wife after a battle with ovarian cancer.

The couple had met in 1979, the first day of his oncology fellowship on a cancer ward at Chicago’s Rush Presbyterian Hospital. Mary Bagby (BSN ’74, MSN ’78) was an oncology nurse there. Though the two attended Loyola at the same time, they’d never met on campus. “I loved my time at Loyola,” says Pazdur, who recently spoke at the opening of the University’s new Center for Translational Research and Education in Maywood. “We had that common bond from the beginning.”

The couple wed in 1982, and they forged a notable partnership in modern American medicine, with Mary taking a job working in oncology at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. “We knew the same people and would talk about the same professional issues,” Pazdur says. “We shared the same friends.”

While some nurses she worked with left the emotionally grueling field, Mary stuck with oncology. Her husband says she stayed, at least in part, because she wanted to maintain their unity.

He joined the FDA in 1999, first as director of the Division of Oncology Drug Products. In 2005, he was named director of the newly formed Office of Hematology and Oncology Products (OHOP), which was created to consolidate the review of cancer treatments. Now Pazdur has again been tapped to lead a new effort—he was recently named the first acting director of the FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence, part of Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative to accelerate cancer research and make more treatments available to patients.

Through it all Pazdur, 64, has crafted and managed the country’s approach to approving drugs that treat cancer—drugs that might give precious extra years to someone stricken, drugs that are the last hope for families in the midst of loss. There are also drugs that might not help cancer patients at all, but rather increase suffering because of their toxicity. If approved, these drugs can make pharmaceutical companies billions. Cancer is feared, deadly, and widespread, and health insurance and government programs pay for expensive treatments that have been approved by the FDA.

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 1.7 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the United States in 2016; more than half a million will likely die of the disease over the course of the year, making cancer the country’s second leading cause of death. That’s despite a steady stream of breakthroughs, new treatment techniques, and new drugs that are chipping away at the disease.

Pazdur’s tenure at the FDA has put him in the firing line in places as public as a series of columns in the Wall Street Journal’s editorial pages (which excoriated him as being an obstructionist) and as personal as letters from indignant investors and desperate families. On the flip side, consumer advocates have complained that the FDA has been swayed by the relentless lobbying, the pleas of cancer patients—and now, the death of Pazdur’s own wife from cancer.

Ultimately, he has told his staff to go by one metric: At the end of the day, is the American public going to be better with this drug than without it?

The data shows, according to a New York Times article, that under Pazdur’s leadership the OHOP began approving new drugs at a faster rate: at an average of five months instead of six. He says much of the change is because the drugs themselves are better—some of them “slam dunks.” Congress also passed the FDA Safety and Innovation Act of 2012, the same year that Mary Pazdur was diagnosed. It’s a bill that allows the OHOP to work with researchers and act with greater urgency. Still, Pazdur admits his wife’s cancer has changed his thinking.‌

“Her death underscored for me the importance of getting drugs out sooner to patients,” he says. “It also made me understand the importance of drug toxicities. Until you’ve lived with those drugs’ toxicities on a 24-hour basis, you don’t really understand what it’s like.”

Standard product labels, he says, don’t give an accurate picture. He has championed FDA initiatives to include patients’ descriptions of toxicities, written in language people with cancer and their loved ones can understand.

Pazdur notes that cancer drugs are significantly improving and patients are living longer. “This is a dramatic time,” he says. “After years of basic science working to better understand diseases, we have a better understanding of the immune system and can tailor the drugs.” That’s a vast improvement over the previous roulette wheel approach many trials took.

But advances aren’t cures. “I want to make sure we’re not overly optimistic,” he says.

The Pazdurs’ understanding of that reality gave them an advantage when Mary was diagnosed. “We’d seen the movie, we’d read the book,” he says. “Now we were trapped in the story.”

Mary’s friends described her as supportive, practical, and compassionate. She brought that to her final months as well, even though she knew from the beginning of her illness that there was a poor prognosis for her survival. Only about 45 percent of women with ovarian cancer reach the five-year mark after their diagnosis.

She fought to take part in one experimental study with a class of treatment that her husband had no authority over, but when it and other treatments failed, Mary recognized and accepted it. She eventually asked her attending physician to put her in hospice.

“One of the greatest gifts my wife gave to me was how she approached her disease,” Pazdur says. “Cancer can bring out the best or the worst in people. Because of who she was and her religious background, she approached it with great courage.”

A strong faith is another thing the couple shared, and Pazdur recalls a conversation after Mary’s death with a priest who knew the couple well. Pazdur, in his understated way, explains their exchange. The priest told him, “Rick, you’ve gone to Catholic schools, you’re part of a long Catholic tradition. You know that this isn’t the end. Think about it this way: Mary has gone on a long trip to New York. You’ll see her again.”

The priest’s words stuck with Pazdur. He remembers his response, too.

“I said, ‘Father, I hope she’s having fun in New York; I hope she’s maxing out the credit cards. I hope I’ll see her soon. But not too soon.’”

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

The journey back

Laura Caldwell

Antoine Day (pictured) and Jarrett Adams, both wrongly convicted of crimes, are now working to provide housing and training for fellow exonerees through their Life After Justice project. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

With new transitional housing, Life After Innocence reintegrates the exonerated into the world outside prison

By Gail Mansfield

When wrongly convicted people are freed from prison, their journey has just begun. Exonerees—people exonerated of crimes for which they were convicted—have lost years of time with family, earning power, and every other opportunity. They’ve been through the significant emotional and mental trauma of incarcerated life. They are frequently short on money with no place to live, no ID or access to medical care, little ability to use current technology, and only the clothes they’re wearing.

Contrary to a general belief that those wrongfully convicted regularly receive remuneration, less than a third of exonerees receive any kind of financial judgment, according to Laura Caldwell (JD ’92), founder and director of Loyola’s Life After Innocence project. Life After Innocence offers guidance, pro bono legal services, and additional support to exonerees. Students and professors involved with the project help exonerees expunge their records, find housing, search for employment, obtain counseling, obtain computer and cell phone skills, and much more.

“I tell my students that small actions make big changes,” Caldwell says, “especially in the lives of people starting over from scratch.”

Life After Justice, a project spearheaded by exonerees Jarrett Adams and Antoine Day, is a spinoff of Life After Innocence. Adams, who served nearly 10 years for a rape he didn’t commit, earned his undergraduate degree in criminal justice after his release and is now a second-year law student at Loyola and a full-time investigator with the Federal Defender Program. He is planning a career in criminal defense, an area he says is in great need of dedicated attorneys.

“My family couldn’t afford an attorney and my public defender decided not to investigate—not even talking to witnesses,” Adams says. “I’m not bitter, but I’ve got a goal, a destination to reach. The trajectory of my life has all gone around my wrongful conviction, and that’s not all bad. Now I have an opportunity to keep other people from experiencing what I’ve experienced. I don’t expect to change the world, but I do expect to further the trend of helping people the way I was helped.”

Day, wrongly convicted of murder and attempted murder, spent 13 years in the criminal justice system. Putting his own experience to the service of others, he’s now outreach coordinator of prison reentry at the Howard Area Community Center Employment Resource Center. In this position, Day mentors at-risk teens and parolees, implements job training and placement programs, and runs neighborhood stabilization and anti-violence programs.

Safe, stable housing is a critical unmet need of exonerees, many of whom leave prison with no place to stay. Life After Justice aims to provide a base of housing plus an overlay of training and counseling services to help exonerees find jobs, address their emotional issues, and otherwise adjust to their new freedom. Located on Chicago’s West Side, the Life After Justice building originally belonged to Day’s aunt. Renovations to the property are set to begin soon.

“A lot of guys are getting exonerated and have nowhere to go,” says Day, who originated the idea of Life After Justice and enlisted Adams’s collaboration. “They’re put in situations that are really dangerous for them. When they come out, they need someone to trust, someone they can build a relationship with.

Adds Adams, “This isn’t going to be just a house, but a launching pad, with an emphasis on mentoring and therapy. We’re taking broken men and helping them put their lives back together.”

As Life After Innocence approaches its fifth anniversary in January, Caldwell, students and supporters, and their clients are celebrating progress and looking to go to the next level. “When we started, I had four students and three clients” Caldwell recalls.

“Now, I look down the table in our dedicated clinical space and see an adjunct professor, 10 to 12 students enrolled in an established, effective program, and an exoneree who’s now a law student. It’s beyond my wildest expectations. And we see how much more we can still do.”

The shopper's dilemma

Food deserts

Maintaining a balanced diet poses a unique challenge in communities with limited food access  

By Zoë Fisher (’17)

Eating healthy starts with picking the right foods from grocery store shelves, but what happens when the options in the aisles are much more limited? Joanne Kouba, PhD, RDN, LDN, associate professor and director of Niehoff’s dietetics education programs; and Annemarie Cahill (BSN ’98, MSN ’06), FNP, MSN, RN, clinical nursing instructor; sent a group of 20 dietetic, nursing, and medical students from Loyola to find out.

As part of a research project on food availability in Maywood, presented at this year’s Palmer Research Symposium, students were sent into the neighborhood with a shopping list. They quickly discovered there are no grocery stores in Maywood and instead found that most residents do their shopping at mom-and-pop shops, gas station mini-marts, or dollar stores. The research project is similar to one Kouba managed in 2007, where she compared food availability in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood to that of Oak Park.

The 2007 study paired Loyola students with community residents and a geographer. In the new study, students were separated into collaborative teams with at least one representative of each discipline and sent out to collect data. Early on, the students found it difficult to confirm the location of food sources. Some places they found listed on the internet had closed, and when students drove through the neighborhoods, they also discovered stores that weren’t listed online.

Searching the shelves

Once in the stores, students shopped for 60 items from the USDA Thrifty Food Plan and checked the availability, price, and quality of each item. They found that the most common food source, gas station mini-marts, don’t sell fresh fruits or vegetables. The only two items from the list that they found in all surveyed stores were juice and salt.

An unexpected finding was that many items in stores weren’t priced. While students were surveying one convenience store, they found a carton of expired eggs. When they asked the store manager the price, he shrugged and said, “‘I don’t know, $8?’” Another team of students had a similar story, but this time the eggs were $1.

Students were surprised to learn that neighborhood residents encounter these types of barriers on a regular basis when shopping for food. “It makes getting what you need more difficult and intimidating sometimes,” says Kouba.

Alternative options

Currently, Kouba is working with the Proviso Partners for Health (PP4H) community group to address chronic disease in Maywood. When it comes to managing and preventing diseases, she says, there’s nothing more crucial than a healthy diet. A recent PP4H project provided 100 salads a day for students at Proviso East High School, providing a faster, healthier lunch alternative.

For Maywood residents with limited food access, Kouba suggests they seek out food at community gardens or farmer’s markets. She also says residents could connect with community organizations or shop owners to explain their needs.

One goal of the project was to bring students of different disciplines together to understand their different professions. Cahill adds that the experience left many students awestruck. She says it was important for the students to learn about the obstacles patients face in order to advise them more effectively. “Practitioners of the future should understand the community,” she says.

Digging in to Italy

Italy Story

From archaeological digs to wine tasting, students get a true experience of Italian history and culture

By Alexandra Jonker (’17)

Studying at the Rome Center is already an immersive and eye-opening experience for students—so how can it be taken a step further? That’s the question that Jennifer Engel, executive director at the Office for International Programs, and Alexander Evers, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of classical studies and ancient history at the JFRC, sought the answer to last summer. “We were talking about different things that we could be doing during our summer session to update the curriculum and invigorate it,” says Engel. “Then we came up with the idea of what we labeled the Fusion Experiences.”

The Fusion Experience pairs two different, but complementary, courses into a single, well-rounded study-abroad adventure. Students spend their first two weeks in Rome and their final two weeks traveling to a specific region in Italy, doing different activities outside of the typical classroom setting. By melding two distinctive areas, Engel says that learning is no longer “siloed” into different subjects. 

“Students are learning about the content in an interrelated way, versus the traditional way of learning about history in one class and learning about art in another,” she says. “This then makes learning all the more impactful when you can actually learn about something in the classroom and then go out and see it and get your hands dirty.”

The Fusion Experience offered two different course options this summer, each of which allowed the students to fuse not only complementary subject areas but also two different regions of Italy. The first was a comparative Italian cultures class focusing on food, wine, and photography. Essentially, the program fused a literature class on Italian culture with a foundational photography course. 

The students traveled to Abruzzo—a region east of Rome situated along the coast of the Adriatic—and visited a range of different sites, learning about the history and culture of the region as well as its environment and sustainability. After participating in wine tastings and going to an authentic cheese production facility, students then honed in on their newfound photography skills, documenting the connections they saw between food and wine, agriculture, the environment, and Italian culture. The second Fusion Experience paired a classics course in archaeology with a class on classical Roman history, learning about the content matter—the history and the basic archaeology techniques. The group, led by Evers, then visited Ragusa, Sicily (pictured), for the next two weeks for an archaeological dig. A team of five students and five local volunteers put their spades into the ground on an untouched archaeological site, where they uncovered a Roman villa. 

“There were previous indications that the grounds were pregnant with remains from the distant past, but no one expected to find this spectacular structure,” says Evers. “The walls were in perfect condition and show a continuity of habitation from the second century AD, a peak time of the Roman Empire, well into the Middle Ages.”

The Sicilian authorities were as thrilled as the students to discover the remains and have given the Rome Center unlimited permission for the next three years to excavate in this location. The findings provided an exciting conclusion to the summer, and Evers says that both Fusion Experiences were a big success in the new program’s first year.

“For the students, it’s been a tremendous experience,” says Evers. “To not only learn and study in the classroom but to be able to actually see, feel, smell, taste, dig, find—it makes it all real, it makes it all unforgettable.”

The teachers' assistant


Loyola senior Anne Bond used Chicago author Kate Hannigan's book The Detective's Assistant to create lesson plans for teachers across the state through a partnership with Illinois Reads. (courtesy photo)

School of Education

A unique partnership brings together the work of Loyola students, local authors, and teachers across the state

By Scott Alessi

Last year, Anne Bond received what may have been the most daunting assignment of her college career. Bond and her classmates in Loyola’s reading teacher program were each tasked with crafting a curriculum for books selected by Illinois Reads, an initiative of the Illinois Reading Council that promotes literacy by highlighting the work of local authors. But this was more than just a classroom exercise—the students were told that their work would be made available to teachers statewide for use in their classrooms.

Bond admits to being a bit nervous about creating something that would have such a broad reach. But she also recognized that it was an excellent opportunity to hone her skills as a teacher. For her book she selected The Detective’s Assistant by Chicago author Kate Hannigan—which is aimed at the same elementary grade levels that Bond hopes to one day teach—and she began developing a curriculum that includes thematic discussions, Smartboard activities, and a vocabulary review. Her goal was to create engaging activities for students and an easily accessible guide for teachers, and Bond and her classmates helped each other make their lesson plans as classroom-ready as possible. “We all thought about what we would want to pick up if we were teaching,” she says.

The assignment stemmed from a collaboration between Loyola and Illinois Reads, which each year selects a group of books aimed at age levels from pre-K through adults. Loyola professor Jane Hunt developed the project as a way for students to gain experience in designing curriculum materials while supporting literacy education in Illinois. Over the past two years, 17 Loyola students have completed teacher guides that are currently available for download on the Illinois Reads website.

“It has been a really great way for our undergraduates to become involved in a statewide project,” says Hunt. “There are so many teachers who are hired who never write any kind of curriculum that is even shared at a school or district level. And our teacher candidates are working on materials that teachers anywhere can have access to.”

For Bond, the project had another unexpected benefit. She decided to send a message to Hannigan through the author’s website and was pleasantly surprised to receive a prompt reply. The two struck up a conversation, and Hannigan was able to provide insight that allowed Bond to expand her work on the book’s themes. She also added information to her guide on how teachers can connect with Hannigan for school visits or Skype chats with their classes. And when Bond shared her work with the author, Hannigan was so impressed that she asked permission to post a copy of the guide on her website, too.

“I think the partnership between all of these people who really care about reading and who care about kids getting a quality reading education is so beneficial,” Bond says. “It has created so many great guides for teachers to use, and great relationships with authors and teachers all around the state. So many children have benefitted.”

Tammy Potts, chairperson of Illinois Reads, agrees that the collaboration has been a big success. When she’s shown the guides created by Loyola students to teachers, Potts sums up their response in one word: “Wow!” She says that’s a testament to the talent and creativity of the students, which in turn has furthered the mission of Illinois Reads.

“It’s a win-win,” Potts says. “Students get to learn and practice in the Loyola environment, and the teachers in Illinois get to reap the benefits.”

Mobilizing health care

Mobilizing health care

Tiffany Vuong, a senior in the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, traveled to Albania with Volunteers Around the World, an organization that has special medical and dental outreach destinations worldwide. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing

Nursing student Tiffany Vuong (’17) is getting a global education in providing quality care

By Erinn Connor

Loyola medical and nursing students take service trips all over the world—from Rome to Mexico to Belize—but Tiffany Vuong (’17) picked a more unusual destination: Albania.

The small country in southeast Europe is mostly known for its beautiful coastlines, but Vuong went with another purpose in mind. She traveled there with Volunteers Around the World, an organization that has special medical and dental outreach destinations worldwide. “Since I started nursing school, I have always wanted to experience working in an international setting and to seek deeper understandings about patients with different backgrounds,” says Vuong.

That’s a goal for many students in the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Niehoff students have an opportunity to practice nursing in multiple destinations across the globe, including service trips to Belize, Rome, England, and France. Such trips involve medical education, clinic work, and spiritual care. Many students also participate in Ignatian Service Immersion trips offered by University Ministry that focus on addressing health inequalities and their causes in countries around the world.

Vuong traveled to Albania earlier this year with four other Loyola students and two students from Valdosta State University in Georgia. Before even getting on the plane, Volunteers Around the World interviewed local doctors to figure out where the underserved communities were and who needed the most help. During the two-week trip, the mobile clinic consisting of Vuong and other volunteers travelled to four villages: Pashalli, Bistrovice, Vokopole, and Skrevan, all in the city of Berat in the south-central part of the country.

Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe as it has suffered from an unstable government for many years. It has no centralized health system, and infectious disease and chronic illnesses are often left untreated. Most people cannot afford the quality care available at private hospitals, and a majority of the population also live in rural areas, adding another obstacle to getting treatment.

Throughout her time in those villages, Vuong and her fellow volunteers helped nearly 250 patients, some with potentially serious illnesses who were unable to find proper treatments. Vuong says she saw children with prolonged ear infections and adults with diabetes who couldn’t get to the city for a checkup or the appropriate medications. “Our mobile clinic was the closest thing to health care that many of them had ever received,” she says.

Their work mainly consisted of shadowing and assisting doctors, taking vital signs and patient histories, and educating patients on nutrition, hygiene, and more. Despite the language barrier and sometimes long lines for treatment, Vuong says the appreciation from patients was palpable. Seeing the limited access to medical treatment firsthand helped solidify her desire to bring care to disadvantaged populations.

“Being able to witness the health disparities and the lack of proper medical treatment helped me recognize the privileges that I held being in a developed country,” she says. “It also taught me to be more patient and flexible in terms of working with a unique health care team, which consisted of local Albanian doctors, nurses, and other students who wished to pursue their careers in different areas of health care.”

Vuong has continued pursuing international service opportunities, including a research trip to Uganda this summer, and encourages her fellow students to do the same. “It is very important for us, as future health care professionals in a developed country, to have these similar exposures abroad,” she says. “Because of this experience, I’ve realized that the scope of nursing practice does not just end with taking good care of our patients. It is also about challenging and educating ourselves to be more culturally competent and globally aware.”

Read more about the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing

Loyola's new leader

Jo Ann Rooney feature

Jo Ann Rooney, JD, LLM, EdD, brings a wealth of experience and a deep passion for education to her role as the University’s 24th president

When Jo Ann Rooney, JD, LLM, EdD, was introduced as Loyola’s 24th president on May 23, it was not her first encounter with the Loyola community. As she revealed in her remarks that day, Dr. Rooney had just a few weeks earlier put on jeans and a sweatshirt for an “incognito” visit to campus, hoping to blend in as a lost graduate student or perhaps a visiting family member. As she spoke with students, parents, and campus security, Dr. Rooney was struck by how each person was able to articulate the unique character of the University. “It wasn’t something they read on a mission statement,” she says. “It was from the heart.”

That undercover visit helped Dr. Rooney confirm that there was indeed something special about Loyola—or more specifically—the people of Loyola. Each person she met had an openness and warmth that made her feel instantly welcome, and as she continues to meet people across the University, Dr. Rooney finds that everyone is eager to talk about Loyola’s mission and how that mission impacts their work at Loyola. She plans to continue those conversations as her presidency unfolds, with a focus on how the community’s shared passion can translate to opportunities for growth.

Just before officially beginning her tenure as the University’s 24th president on August 1, 2016, Dr. Rooney sat down with Loyola magazine to share a little bit about her own passions, from travel and sailing to higher education in the Jesuit tradition.

You’ve had careers in a variety of fields, but always come back to higher education. Why are you so passionate about it?

I can really say it comes from having a family that values education. I often point to the fact that my mom was a career educator. And while my dad was not, he absolutely supported the notion that education was transformative. While it was always a part of me, I didn’t realize until later on how passionate I was about it and wanted to find ways to make higher education a career.

How did you come to that realization?
I always enjoyed school and learning environments; I was energized by it. But really a big moment for me was when I had my first opportunity to teach. The first time I walked into a classroom I realized I had no idea how to put together a Jo Ann Rooney with her parents at Spalding Universitysyllabus or a curriculum, so I picked up the phone to call my mom. She was an elementary education professional for almost 40 years and mentored many teachers, so of course I said, “Mom, help me out!” But despite that tentative beginning, I loved it, even though it took a little while to get involved with the students and not just be the person in the front of the room.

You have those moments where you are in a classroom and you start to see the proverbial light bulb go on for people. You can see their facial expressions and body language change. You see that spark and their intellectual curiosity begin to blossom. In those moments, it is so rewarding to know that you are really having an impact on people’s lives.

‌I was teaching in an adult accelerated program at Emmanuel College in Boston. The students were working full-time during the day, as was I, and you would hear them talk about why they were willing to juggle families and work to come back to school and get a degree, and what that would mean not only for them but for their families. Having that opportunity to help people make that difference was powerful and humbling, and I found I was enjoying my evening teaching role far more than my day job. By networking with my colleagues I was able to make the career change into higher ed and use my corporate experiences as well.

Later I had a phenomenal experience with the Department of Defense, but I also knew that was not a long-term career. I was called upon to serve our country and presented with an opportunity to do some really important work, but my intention was always to come back to higher ed. I admit to really missing higher education when I was away from it. Even in my role at the Department of Defense, part of my portfolio was DODEA, which was the Department’s educational activities. When I was on military bases I would always visit elementary, middle and high schools, academies and training facilities, or even the medical school if there was one nearby.

When you find yourself being drawn to something like that, you know that is your passion.‌

Can you tell us about your connection to Jesuit education and how that led you to Loyola?

I was first introduced to Jesuit education when I was teaching at Emmanuel College. They had a partnership with Regis University, our Jesuit school in Denver, which had developed an accelerated learning model. Part of me becoming an instructor in the accelerated program was learning not just how to teach adults from the pedagogy standpoint but how to integrate the idea of service beyond oneself into my teaching. Without even really understanding that was part of the Ignatian philosophy, it was embedded in me as I learned how to be a part of the adult accelerated program. The more I learned about it and the more time I spent with Regis University, the harder it was to ignore the Jesuit influence and what it meant for this program to be coming from the center of a Jesuit school.

I continued to work with many people at Regis through the years, including facilitating strategic planning on their campus. Through working in those roles, I spent a lot of time with the Jesuits. Then I had the opportunity to serve on their board of trustees. Father Mike Sheeran, who was president of Regis at the time, reached out to me and said, “We know you. You know us,” almost as a way of saying, “You may not realize this, but you very much understand Ignatian spirituality and what we’re doing here.”

He invited me to serve on the board of trustees, and I think that experience took my understanding and my internalization of Jesuit education to a whole new level. As a trustee, you really do need to understand that, because any of the decisions we made had to be focused around how to support the mission of Jesuit education and Ignatian spirituality.

What does the Jesuit education philosophy mean to you?

It comes in a number of different forms, and I was struck by it today walking around campus. I spoke to an individual who was working on faculty development. A conversation that I have had on the Regis campus is about how we prepare our faculty to help students start to integrate the mission and ideals of social justice and apply it in the world. That does not mean our faculty have had to come through Jesuit education. In fact, they are of many different faith, cultural, and educational backgrounds. But we need to offer something more than just technical learning. I found out that there is a very concerted effort here—not just for new faculty, but ongoing professional development—to help faculty integrate these conversations and these issues into the classroom.

As one example, almost every college has an ethics course. But how do you take that to the next level and talk to students about practically applying those ethical decision-making challenges to social justice issues or challenges in their own life? How do they model to their colleagues and clients that those ethics must be very much at the heart of what they do?

That is just an example of what our faculty are being challenged to do. On the other hand, our students come here because they want an education that doesn’t just teach them technical skills, which, in many cases, are going to be out of date in a very short time given the speed of transformation in many fields. That is really where I think the difference is in Jesuit education and, frankly, our liberal arts core curriculum. Our students have the ability to see the world through a different lens, to understand that it is about serving others. There needs to be that social justice component in what our students learn, which will long outlast the ‌technical knowledge they receive.

As Loyola’s first lay president, how do you plan to maintain the University’s Jesuit mission and identity?

I have already had a number of conversations about this with the Jesuit community, especially Father Jim Prehn, who is the rector, and Father Brian Paulson, who is the provincial. Those conversations started early on, even as part of the search process, about how important it would be to closely work with the Jesuit community to continue to make sure that the mission and identity is front and center.

When the campus community has always had a Jesuit president, I think people may have almost taken for granted that the University is following the Jesuit mission. Now we are having conversations around making sure we are very intentional in not only our programming but in engaging with the Jesuit community. Father Jim and I have had conversations about how to make sure that the great group of Jesuits and scholastics here can participate and contribute to the mission and campus life. I think it is critical that we have these conversations about how to be very thoughtful in making that connection even stronger and how we can continue to keep that focus on mission and Jesuit identity.

I have also had conversations with one or two of the other Jesuit schools to see how they have continued to develop and articulate their mission when they have had a lay president come on board. For instance, Gonzaga University did a wonderful written piece on their mission that brought the campus and discussions together, and they really took the time to develop that position. We will likely be doing more of that here as well.

Jo Ann Rooney sailing photo
What do you like to do in your free time?

If I am not at work, most likely you’ll find me on the water. I am an avid sailor and have been for many, many years. I’ve sailed on everything from small boats with a single sail to larger sloops and schooners to crewing on the Australian tall ship Endeavour. I do not mind climbing to high places and out on yardarms setting sails. For me, sailing and being out on the water experiencing the elements is where I can completely let everything else go.

I also enjoy two kinds of rowing. First, I am a kayaker. For me a great day can be taking my kayak out, seeing all the marine life, and just paddling and enjoying that peace and tranquility. The other rowing I like to do is probably the complete opposite, which is sculling. There it is primarily about going fast, but again it is very much about a physical connection with water.
I’m also a big snorkeler and love to dive. I don’t scuba anymore, but I love to snorkel whenever I get the opportunity and have experienced many wonderful diving sites.

Along with that, I also love travel. I have had the benefit of going to many exciting, diverse places around the world to experience different countries and cultures. One of my favorites is Australia. I’ve been there a couple of times traveling primarily up and down the east coast. I dove in the Great Barrier Reef and it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. I have a great underwater picture showing a sea turtle that was coming up and giving me this very curious look, and I managed to snap a picture at that moment. It was just wonderful.

What are your other top destinations?

If I have to pick a city other than Sydney it would be London. I love England and the English countryside. I’ve also spent some time in Ireland enjoying the country and trying to figure out where some of my family roots have come from.
I’ve traveled throughout Europe, to the South Pacific, to South America, to Australia and New Zealand, and to the Caribbean. Italy would probably be another favorite destination along with the Scandinavian countries, which have an aura all their own. There are so many places that I love.

Is there anywhere you haven’t been that you’d like to visit?

Yes, China. That one has been on my list since I was in either middle school or freshman year of high school. I had an English literature teacher who went on an exchange program at the point when they were first starting to allow educators from the U.S. to go to China, and she came back to tell us about it. I have wanted to go to China for many years and just have not quite been able to work it out.
Jo Ann Rooney at the White House
Can you talk about your role at the Department of Defense?

The title of my role was personnel and readiness, and my job was really about our people. And it wasn’t just uniformed military; it also included the hundreds of thousands of civilians supporting our troops along with a lot of work with military families to make deployments and transitions easier for them. For example, if a military spouse was a nurse in Illinois or a teacher in Washington, for instance, and then was moving to Arizona or Kentucky, how could we help that person transition successfully and navigate the licensure requirements and relocation challenges?

Another part of the role was looking at medical care. After the recent series of wars, we were faced with having to not only be at the forefront of research and innovation in our treatment but also to figure out the best way to support our injured men and women so they could have rich, full lives. Our medical teams in the field got very adept at being able to save people from traumatic injuries, but once they came home, we had to figure out how to advance those treatments and create the best quality of life for those veterans along with supporting their families. This was also during a time when the military was downsizing, and we had to look at what was next for people in their transitions in terms of how to prepare them for jobs or link them with higher education opportunities.

The readiness aspect of my job was about whether our military have the tools—but more so the training and the support—to be able to do what our country needs them to do. The big question was always, “ready for what?” I believe when many people think military, they think war. What they do not realize is that the bulk of what our military does is humanitarian assistance. It is building infrastructure, supporting cultures, or coming in to help after a disaster. The challenge we faced was how do you ensure that they are ready to do whatever is required of them, whether they are serving in war zones or providing humanitarian aid? Again, my job covered some aspect of everything to do with the people.

It sounds like there are many similarities between the work you did there and the responsibilities you would have as a university president.

Very much so. People often ask me, “How did you get to the DoD?” I say it was some fortuitous meetings with several people that knew of my background in higher ed. Robert Gates was Secretary of Defense at the time, and most people do not recall that he had served as the president of Texas A&M University. I had been a university president and so had he, so he understood that role. When he and the President were looking to bring in leadership that understood organizational change and how to run large, complex organizations, the connection to higher ed was apparent.

Much of what I learned in an organization as huge as DoD—how to connect with people and events globally—really makes the transition to Loyola easier. I have had a leadership role in this large, complex, diverse, extensive worldwide organization. The 30,000 people in my division were located around the world, and I had direct budget responsibility for more than $73 billion and additional oversight for billions more.

What was your work life like at the DoD?

The Department of Defense is an institution that very tightly follows protocol. It was unusual for people to just drop in to my office, since that was not considered proper protocol and since my schedule was intense. But my team started to realize that, as it got later in the day, my door was open for a reason and they could just stop in.

One day I had a colleague come in to talk about a very thorny issue with health care. It was a long day and after more discussion we realized that we had done as much as we could with the issue and needed additional work to solve it. The solution was not going to happen that day. Soon, realizing that, we just started trading travel stories. We both had a great passion for travel and we sat there exchanging experiences.

All of a sudden we started to laugh, really laugh, and I got a knock on the door from my military assistant asking, “Ma’am, just checking if everything’s alright,” because we were making more noise than we realized with our laughter. Next thing I know more people came in and all of us started exchanging stories and having a wonderful relaxed interaction after a really tough day.

Sometimes you need to know when to say, “OK, we have a serious issue, and we will find a resolution, but what can we do right now? Let’s make sure we can all have some balance and perspective, get some grounding, and we will tackle that one tomorrow.”

Do you maintain any connections to the DoD?

Yes, in addition to having some very close friendships with people still in DoD, I had the opportunity recently to speak to ROTC cadets at Fort Knox. That was arranged with the help of Lt. Col. Matthew Yandura (U.S. Army), chair of Loyola’s Military Science program. In fact, the person who introduced me to the cadet corps is one of our students here. I talked to them about leadership and the challenges they, as new officers, would likely face and hopefully gave them some tools or ideas that they could apply. As I stated earlier, often it is not about war, but it is about work on the humanitarian side and how these young officers can lead effectively in all circumstances.

What do you see as the role of Loyola’s alumni?

Alumni are a critical university constituency. As part of the Jesuit network, the education that Loyola has continued to provide and its role in this community are extremely strong. But the people that can speak to that the best are oftentimes the alums. They can look back at their career path and how they got there and say, “Now I understand the influence that the Jesuit education had on me.” They’re often the best spokespeople for how transformative this education can really be.

I believe if we do not engage with our alums and ask them, frankly, to continue to help us, we are shortchanging ourselves as an institution. Whether they are donors that want to financially support educational opportunities or special projects, or whether they can be mentors to potential incoming students, I think there are a lot of opportunities to be able to engage with our alums. I know that we have a broad network of alums, so there have to be a number of different opportunities where we can strengthen those ties.

How do you hope to engage with our Loyola alumni going forward?

There has not been a single alum I have met either here in Chicagoland or outside the region who does not want to find a way to give back and help the institution. We have to look for ways to reach out and say, “You’ve had a wonderful education, now we need you to help us make the connection with future generations, and here are some ways we’d like you to help us.”

It may be as simple as alumni having opportunities to meet with potential students or their families. I think we take for granted that we are reaching out to our students, but often we have to engage their whole family in the decision process of where they go to school. Again, I think we’ve got some wonderful alums who can speak from the heart about what Loyola meant to them.

We must continue to find ways to engage more and more of our alums. The strongest schools, those that continue to grow and have greater influence beyond their campuses, almost universally have very engaged alums. There is a great opportunity for us to enhance that engagement. 

Read more about Dr. Rooney's background, watch the video of her introduction as Loyola's 24th president, or view more photos from her arrival on campus

Leap, and your life will appear


Despite a lack of sailing experience, Amy McCullough and her partner Jimmie left behind their lives ashore to set sail along the Pacific Coast. (Photos courtesy of Amy McCullough)


Taking risks can be daunting, but it can also open up a sea of opportunity

By Amy McCullough (BA ’02)

When I was an undergrad at Loyola, people often asked me what I planned on doing with a creative writing degree. Only half-jokingly, I said, “Probably wait tables.”

And, honestly, I did a lot of that. I worked a desk job for a year and waited tables for about two before figuring out that I might be able to mold my love and knowledge of music and knack for writing into a career as a music journalist. Shortly thereafter, I landed an internship (of the unpaid variety) at Willamette Week, a Pulitzer Prize–winning alternative newsweekly based in Portland, Oregon.

After a few months as a bartender/intern (followed by a few more as a bartender/freelancer), Willamette Week hired me on. Not only did I end up a full-time music writer, I was eventually in charge of the entire music section. I got what I wanted. I turned a degree I admittedly felt cynical about into a dream job. Then I ditched it all to go sailing.

That’s right: in 2008, I quit my illustrious music editor job, sold all my belongings, and moved onto a 27-foot sailboat with my boyfriend, now partner of 10 years, Jimmie. Oh, and there’s this important detail: neither of us knew how to sail.

So why on earth would I do such a thing? The short answer is love. I was head-over-heels for my main man, Jimmie, and we jointly decided that “regular” life—jobs, rent, bills, responsibilities—were eating up too much of our time—time we could be spending together. Togetherness became our ultimate goal. What started as a lovely afternoon of canoeing on Scappoose Bay ultimately led to our conclusion that living aboard a boat was the most realistic (read: cheap, immediate) means to this end.

So we set sail in the name of love. But there is another aspect we both found appealing about casting off: not danger or thrill-seeking, exactly, but the challenge—and deviance. Jimmie and I both loved the idea of doing something unusual and, perhaps most importantly, something no one else had the nerve to do.

It didn’t hurt that it also happened to be something so many fantasize about: sailing away. Part of the appeal was taking a leap, having faith that we’d be alright, that our self-sufficiency and resourcefulness and sheer wills would get us through. (You can read the full story of our adventure in The Box Wine Sailors, available now from Chicago Review Press).

Strangely enough, ending up at Loyola—and in Chicago, for that matter—was a similar leap for me. For reasons I won’t go into here, I dropped out of Illinois State University after five semesters and, on a whim, moved to Chicago. After a few months working at a record store, I considered going back to school. But for what? At this point, I was so dissatisfied, so disillusioned, so over it, to be frank, that I didn’t really know where to start—or how to finish.

I had been a communications major at ISU (with a focus on radio); now, all I really wanted to do was write. I figured if I was going to have any chance of completing my undergraduate education, I’d better pick something I felt like doing—forthcoming waitressing jobs notwithstanding.

I talked to a Loyola advisor, was given a scholarship (which certainly didn’t hurt), and, just like that, I was back in school. And this time, I did finish. My decision to leave ISU was personal (it was me, not them), but I did feel more myself in Loyola’s urban environment. The small class sizes and wonderful professors—David Michael Kaplan, J.D. Trout, and Barry Silesky, in particular—engaged me enough to pull me through. The rest (and the best) was yet to come: my career as a music journalist, crazy young love leading to my year as a happenstance adventurer, and becoming an author.

College students are very focused on “success,” no doubt, but perhaps they don’t often stop to examine what that actually means to them. I always wanted to write a book and see it published—though, believe it or not, I had no intention of writing about our sailing trip until it was over. Now I have held a copy of The Box Wine Sailors in my hands, I’ve read from it to friends, family, and complete strangers on a three-week book tour. I also always wanted to fall in love. I’ve been happily in love with Jimmie for a decade.

That said, I often don’t feel like a “successful” person; like most of us, I’m still figuring plenty of things out. Life is a process, one we only advance through by living. And for me, that living involves a degree of uncertainty, whether it’s going back to school for creative writing and having no idea where it will lead, jumping on a boat with the love of my life, or trying my hand at writing a book. Those chances have led to some of what I consider my greatest personal successes. Taking leaps—including my leap to go back to school at Loyola—played a huge part in that.

‌   ‌

About the author
Amy McCullough (BA ’02), an Illinois native, graduated magna cum laude with a major in English (Creative Writing Concentration). She is the former music editor of Willamette Week and has also written for SAIL Magazine, Eugene Weekly, and Finder, a magazine-style guide to Portland. Her first book, The Box Wine Sailors, was published by Chicago Review Press in November 2015 and spent over a month as Amazon’s #1 New Release in Sailing. She is currently a graduate teaching assistant and master’s student in the Department of Geography and the Environment at the University of Texas. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her partner (and former shipmate), Jimmie.


Achievable. Accessible. Affordable.


Osmar Cruz, a member of Arrupe College's inaugural freshman class, exits the Chicago Ave. Red Line stop with classmate Andrea Vallejo. Arrupe offers students like Cruz the opportunity to attend a two-year college and to graduate with little or no debt. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Arrupe College is opening doors to higher education for local students from under-served communities

By Scott Alessi

During his senior year of high school, Osmar Cruz took a weekend job working 12-hour shifts at a restaurant about an hour from his home on Chicago’s South Side. After leaving school at 3 p.m. on Fridays, Cruz would make a brief stop back home before rushing off to start work at 6. By the time his shift ended the next morning, he’d gone 24 hours without sleep. At 6 p.m. that night he’d be back at the restaurant, ready to do it all over again.

The job was exhausting. Cruz was already working four nights a week at a martial arts school, cleaning up after practice in exchange for free lessons. The schedule started to take its toll and Cruz struggled to keep up with his studies. “Sometimes I couldn’t fall asleep,” he says. “I couldn’t concentrate. I was losing it.”

When he took the job, Cruz was unsure of where he’d be after high school. He worried that a college education would be too expensive and may not be an option. But as the long hours wore on him, Cruz recalls getting some valuable advice from a coworker: If you don’t want to keep doing this kind of work, you have to get an education.

Cruz knew that meant more than earning a high school diploma. He quit his restaurant job and shifted his focus to applying for college, looking to Chicago’s city colleges as his most affordable choices. But his prospects still seemed bleak. Cruz says he knew the schools he was applying to didn’t have the best academic reputations, nor the highest graduation rates. In fact, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center finds only 39 percent of students who enter two-year community colleges graduate within six years.

And there was still the issue of cost. Though community college is generally more affordable than a four-year university, the Institute for College Access & Success reports that the average cost to full-time students is still $15,000. Only 2 percent of students have their financial need met by grants, and for Cruz, the only guarantee he would get from attending a city college was a heavy load of student loan debt.

Things changed when a teacher at Cruz’s high school told him about Arrupe College, Loyola’s new two-year school. Designed for students like Cruz, Arrupe strives to make a high-quality Jesuit education accessible to students with limited financial resources. With the aid of grants and scholarships, Arrupe gives students an opportunity to earn an associate’s degree and to graduate with little or no debt.

Cruz applied and was admitted, making him one of nearly 160 students to enter Arrupe’s first freshman class in August 2015. Students attend either a morning or afternoon session four days a week—leaving the rest of their day open for work and studying—and complete their courses over five eight-week sessions throughout the year. Class sizes are small, students have more direct access to professors, and support staff are on hand to assist students. All of these ingredients are designed to pave the road to success for Arrupe students.

Blanca Rodriguez’s eyes widen with excitement when she talks about the opportunities Arrupe has given her. The oldest child of Mexican immigrants, Rodriguez has dreamed of going to college since she was in seventh grade. She knows the kind of sacrifices her parents made in leaving behind their home and family, all in the hope of making a better life for their children. That inspired Rodriguez, pushing her to work hard so that she can give back to her parents and set a good example for her two younger brothers.

“It has always been in my head that I have to go to college in order to be successful,” she says. “It has never really been a choice for me. It has been something I had to do.”

Rodriguez was dejected upon realizing that a four-year university would be financially out of reach. She had hoped to pay her own way through college rather than putting an additional financial burden on her parents. Like Cruz, she considered city colleges but was unimpressed with the offerings. Then she discovered Arrupe.

“I’ve always prayed to go to a good school and to have a good education,” says Rodriguez. “This school was an obvious sign that God listens to my prayers.”

Rodriguez was accepted, and through a package of financial aid and scholarships she will graduate debt free. She realizes what a unique opportunity that is and says it is an added motivation. Thus far, her hard work is paying off. In the first eight-week session, she was among a select few students to make the Dean’s List. She hopes to attend Loyola to complete her bachelor’s degree, and if she keeps her grades up she knows she can qualify for automatic admission—and more importantly, for a merit-based scholarship.

Arrupe also helped Rodriguez find a part-time job at a bank, where she works four days a week. She says the job has boosted her confidence and improved her organizational skills. The money she earns helps her contribute to the family’s bills and to buy groceries, which allows her father to reduce his overtime hours at work. For Rodriguez, it is a small way of showing her gratitude.

That desire to serve others is something Rodriguez sees reflected in Arrupe’s Jesuit mission. “Here we talk about how we need to be men and women for others. If I went to a community college, I feel like everybody would just be focusing on themselves,” she says.

Rodriguez believes Arrupe is indeed preparing her to be a “woman for others.” She wants to study psychology, with the goal of one day working with children who have mental disabilities. “I am not working for my own success,” she says. “I am working for the success of my parents because they had to struggle to come here. And I am working for the success of people that I want to help in the future to better their lives. I am not focusing on my own goals, I am focusing on how to better the lives of other people.”

When Arrupe’s morning classes let out, Osmar Cruz finds himself a quiet spot to study on campus. It’s a brief respite in an otherwise busy schedule. He still spends his evenings at the martial arts school, but he’s traded in his cleaning duties for teaching, leading classes for children age 12 and ages 4 to 6. Then he tries to fit in a little more schoolwork before getting to bed.

Cruz admits it is hard work, but feels those long hours at the restaurant and his martial arts training helped to mentally prepare him. “I always tell myself that nothing is ever too much,” he says. “It is not an obstacle. It is a challenge.”

Cruz hopes to continue his studies at Loyola, with his sights set on not only a bachelor’s degree but a PhD as well. He enjoys teaching and wants to someday be a college professor. Yet he knows none of it would be possible without Arrupe allowing him to take the first step. “I am very proud to be an Arrupe student,” he says. “I am thankful for everybody who supported the making of this college, because now there is one more person in this world who has an opportunity.”

Learn more about Arrupe College

Meet another Arrupe student, Edquitta Alexander

Finding a life’s work


Stritch School of Medicine student Kamaal Jones is working with Project Brotherhood, an organization on Chicago's South Side that takes a holistic approach to health for young black men. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Stritch School of Medicine

Kamaal Jones works to increase health awareness among African American men on Chicago's South Side

By Erinn Connor

Before he was a student at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine, Kamaal Jones took a trip to South Africa in 2012, where he experienced firsthand the country’s overburdened health care system. Jones, now a second-year medical student, kept an online journal during that summer trip and had a revelation during his time there.

He wrote: “One of the most interesting things for me was that, as an African American, this is the first time I’ve ever truly just blended in. It seems like a minor thing, but it was strange to me to be surrounded by other black men and women everywhere. At hospitals where I’ve been before, I always stuck out like a sore thumb, but here, I was home. I truly loved it.”

Fast forward two years, as Jones was settling into his busy schedule at Stritch. During and after his undergraduate years at Cornell University, and after outreach work in South Africa, Haiti, and Port Chester, New York, which is near his hometown of White Plains, Jones was itching to rediscover this feeling in a community near Loyola.

He was particularly interested in black men’s health, and through Stritch, he discovered Project Brotherhood. The South Side–based organization looks to increase health awareness in black men, not just physically but also mentally, socially, economically, and spiritually. It provides preventive health training that is relatable and understandable for black men of all ages. Its doctors—all black—provide medical services out of Woodlawn Health Center for men who either don’t have access to regular clinic services or don’t feel comfortable in that environment. They also provide resume writing classes, fatherhood support groups, and other social support groups.

Jones immediately took to Project Brotherhood’s philosophy and their approach to caring for specific needs of black men. He felt it synced with his own reasons for going into medicine.

“You have to have a grasp of what’s happening in the community to be able to understand the pathology of what’s happening with the patient,” Jones says. “You can have a much broader effect through this kind of public health work in ways you can’t necessarily do by the time they’re actually coming into a doctor’s office or hospital.”

Addressing community health disparities is one of the four priorities of Loyola's "Plan 2020: Building a More Just, Humane, and Sustainable World." Read more about the University's strategic plan here.

Jones has been involved in a number of programs at Project Brotherhood. One is through his Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, a national year-long program that lets students create and implement efforts to improve the health of underserved communities. Through his fellowship, Jones helped lead an outreach program to train high school students about basic public health principles.

“When he first started coming here and teaching the public health class, I think it was a real eye-opening experience for him,” says Marcus Murray, Project Brotherhood’s executive director. “He was making a program for black kids from the city, and being able to communicate with them was a skill he had to hone. It’s not like just seeing a patient in an office; it’s understanding where they’re coming from and just being able to have a conversation.”

Jones first asked the kids what their concerns are in their neighborhood. At the time it was gun violence—the Laquan McDonald shooting had recently happened nearby, and both kids and adults were troubled by what was taking place in the community. Jones was helping the kids figure out how that intersected with their health and well-being. They also discussed smoking, drinking, and issues that come along with generational gaps between older and younger men.

Through all of his public health work, both abroad and on the South Side, Jones has found working with the members of the community and teaching them to help themselves is important in meeting their specific health needs.

“When you look at the history of what went into the building of the communities of Chicago and the segregation that occurred, you can see that so many resources have been pulled out of the South and West sides,” Jones says. “Wherever we can bring in resources and use them to guide the community to meet what they see to be their needs, that’s the most crucial thing. It is helping them get a platform so their voices are heard.”

His Schweitzer Fellowship public health awareness group paired well with another project he was given by Murray. Jones, along with a few social workers, met weekly with a group of high school students who were victims of gun violence, giving them a safe space for emotional support. Their conversations range from safety to hip hop. Making those connections has been one of the most rewarding parts of Jones’s work with Project Brotherhood.

“He has a natural talent for talking with these young people,” says Murray. “They all gravitate towards Kamaal. He’s a genuine, honest person who is willing to learn. I think everyone who meets him sees that.”

Lena Hatchett, PhD, director of Community and University Partnerships and an assistant professor in the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics, connected Jones with Project Brotherhood in his first year. She believed his passion for public health and desire to help black men made him a perfect fit for the organization. “He is able to recognize and cultivate the assets and abilities of the high school students he will engage,” Hatchett says.

Though Jones doesn’t know where he wants to be for his residency, he knows he’d like to work with an organization like Project Brotherhood. He’s also interested in public health research, and the organization’s population would be ideal. “They have a really unique patient population,” Jones says. “Partially because you don’t have that many black men who are doctors, it’s hard to get black men into hospitals and clinics before it’s an emergency a lot of the time.”

Wherever Jones ends up after graduation, his already deep roots in community outreach will continue to grow and play a large part in his medical career. “Medicine can’t be understood without a community context,” he says. “No patients are islands unto themselves. They’re all part of some greater web of interconnection.”

Read more stories about members of the Stritch community working to address health disparities

A West Coast view on Chicago’s communities


George Villanueva, PhD, brings a wealth of experience with community organizing in Los Angeles to his work at Loyola's School of Communication. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

School of Communication

After forging his expertise in issues of urban justice in Los Angeles, George Villanueva brings his unique perspective to Loyola’s School of Communication

By Kristen Hannum

George Villanueva, PhD, remembers the day in 1992 when the policemen who assaulted Rodney King were acquitted. Los Angeles erupted in rioting. Villanueva was at middle school, 25 miles from his Central Los Angeles home. Businesses were set on fire and school buses couldn’t risk making their way through the violence. Parents kept their children at home. Schools were closed for more than a week.

“It was stark, going through that experience,” Villanueva says. “It played a part in forming my outlook.”

Villanueva, who came to Loyola in 2015 as an assistant professor in the School of Communication, credits the experience with drawing him to social justice work. It led him to spend more than a decade in the intersecting world of Los Angeles politics, community media, and community organizing for sustainable urban development.

After earning his undergraduate degree in Black studies and history from the University of California Santa Barbara, Villanueva returned to Los Angeles, working with organizations and elected officials who were trying to make the city better for residents.

“That deepened my interest and kept me thinking about how to turn the city around. LA could have gone much more negatively than it has in the last 30 years,” he says. “I’ve seen so many examples where people have banded together to work for the common good.”

That work made Villanueva aware of how impenetrable urban planning is for most people—how much of it is complicated by its fiscal aspects and capital infrastructure projects—and he decided to return to school. His goal was to learn how to better engage and teach others how to communicate urban planning. He earned his doctorate at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, where he focused his research on civic engagement, spatial justice, and sustainable urban development.

So why is this Angeleno, a man deep in LA politics, at Loyola in Chicago? “I wanted to be in a big city and at an institution that would support social justice work,” he says. “Chicago and Loyola—with its Plan 2020 and Jesuit tradition—were a big draw.”

Villanueva dove into learning about Chicago’s 77 community areas and more than 200 self-identified neighborhoods. “Chicago has a strong sense of itself as a city but also as neighborhoods,” he says. “Before communities can successfully organize, there needs to be a feeling of belonging, of neighborhood pride. Neighborhoods aren’t just geography, they’re also social perception.”

Villanueva himself has become involved with Chicago community organizations and taken part in local summits, most recently for conflict resolution and peacebuilding. “What I’ve see here is the process for democracy versus violence,” he says. “My own sense of optimism tells me people can come together and work towards solutions in their neighborhoods.”

Meet more Loyola faculty who are focused on social justice:

Making responsible choices—both near and far


Theology professor Tisha Rajendra, PhD, teaches a course on morality and food, encouraging students to think about the impact of their dietary choices. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

College of Arts and Sciences

From migration to meal choices, theologian Tisha Rajendra explores the morality of decision making

By Kristen Hannum

Growing up in North Carolina, Tisha Rajendra, PhD, saw history all around her: statues honoring Confederate generals and soldiers who had fought and died for a set of principles that were wrong, she says. “But no one ever talked about that. Part of my fascination with the responsibilities of the past comes from growing up in a place where no one talks about their responsibilities.”

Most of Rajendra’s articles and her forthcoming book, Migrants and Citizens: Justice as Responsibility in the Ethics of Migration, look at issues of migration and the responsibilities of receiving nations. That’s because it’s their policies that often are to blame for driving waves of refugees. “Migration is patterned,” says Rajendra, an assistant professor of theology. “Migration flows. Something sets migration flows in motion.”

Her research is focused on viewing migration in a larger context. “It’s not just poverty or unemployment that drives it,” she says. “A fuller picture of justice needs to be discussed. Responsibilities also need to be part of the understanding.”

Rajendra offers the United States’s history of looking towards Mexico for low-cost labor as an example. There had long been a pattern of circular migration, she explains, where workers would come for the harvests and then return to Mexico. A 1986 policy reform made it more difficult and expensive to cross the border. Workers began coming to stay and bringing their families. “It began what we have today, a huge population of undocumented workers,” she says.

In contrast with her work on international migration, Rajendra teaches about mostly domestic, hands-on issues. In “Moral Problems: Food Systems,” for instance, she urges students to think through their dietary choices. The class has experiential components—the students garden, interview farmers, and live on the budget of someone on food stamps. Students may come in saying they don’t understand why people in poverty eat so many potato chips, but when living on a food stamps budget they get hungry and fill up on low-cost chips. “That’s from the stress of a mere weekend, worrying over every penny and running out of food,” Rajendra says.

Rajendra hadn’t planned on teaching and writing about social justice. Her Bryn Mawr undergraduate degree was in linguistics; she wanted to be a New Testament scholar. “Then I learned that I preferred the concrete questions of my Christian ethics classes,” she says. Her Harvard master’s in theological studies led her to Boston College, where she earned a doctorate in philosophy in theological ethics and became better acquainted with the Jesuits. She came to Loyola in 2010.

“I was familiar with Jesuit institutions, and the Jesuit ethos, so I was very aware of Loyola,” she says. “It’s a great environment for someone who wants to teach what I want to teach and to write what I want to write about,” she says.

Meet more Loyola faculty who are focused on social justice:

Where campus meets community


Loyola's Center for Urban Research and Learning has developed a unique model of partnering with local organizations in Chicago to research issues of importance to the community. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

For 20 years, Loyola’s Center for Urban Research and Learning has built lasting partnerships that have led to impactful social change

By Scott Alessi

When talking to people in Chicago who had recently experienced homelessness, researcher Christine George kept hearing the same complaint again and again. Individuals who found themselves in need of housing or shelter had attempted to contact the city’s 311 helpline, only to be told they should find a nearby hospital or police station. Instead of directing callers to services that could help with their housing dilemma, operators were telling them to turn to someone else for assistance.

So George, an associate research professor at Loyola’s Center for Urban Research and Learning (CURL), and her research team decided to test the system themselves. They placed 100 calls to 311, each time presenting the operator with a crisis scenario. And just like the people they’d interviewed, the researchers were given vague and unhelpful directions. For people in real emergency situations, the helpline was clearly not serving its purpose.

The finding was part of an extensive evaluation of Chicago’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, a study commissioned to find where the city was succeeding in its efforts and where it could improve. A group of 550 people experiencing homelessness were tracked over a period of one year, with researchers looking at what worked and what didn’t when it came to getting people into stable housing. Like all of CURL’s research, the project was a collaborative effort between researchers, students, and community leaders aimed at finding ways to address urban issues.

It also sparked a significant change. When George and her team presented the results of their study at an event hosted by the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness, the failings of 311 caught the attention of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. While Emanuel was pleased to hear that many of the city’s efforts to end homelessness were leading to progress, he pledged to deal with the 311 problems immediately.

Sure enough, improvements to the system were quickly implemented. “Our report was the basis for that,” George says. “It helped to move forward a bunch of important pieces in addressing homelessness.”

It is this type of success that has made CURL, one of Loyola’s Centers of Excellence, a respected partner in the local community for two decades. “We are the go-to people,” says George. “We have formed these partnerships, and people really trust us.”

Power of partnerships

Those partnerships are the heart of CURL’s unique research model. Founded in 1996, the center was designed to bring together members of the University and leaders in the community for collaborative projects geared toward not just studying urban issues but finding solutions.

“The simple view is that there is knowledge in the university, but there is also knowledge in the community,” says Philip Nyden, the founding director of CURL. Nyden, a sociology professor who joined Loyola’s faculty in 1979, says university researchers might not get the full picture of what is happening in a community when conducting research on their own. But the community can also benefit from the expertise and credibility that comes from working with representatives of a major university. “The model in many ways is highly logical,” Nyden says. “But around the academic world, that was a radical idea.”

Nyden first tested this approach in 1989 when he helped to form the Policy Research Action Group (PRAG), a collective of local universities and community groups in Chicago. PRAG proved the model had merits and paved the way for the establishment of CURL.

It didn’t take long for CURL to see the fruits of its partnership-focused model. An early project for the center brought together the Howard Area Community Center (HACC), a local social service agency, and Organization of the NorthEast (ONE), a political advocacy group, to study the potential adverse effects of welfare reform. A key finding of their report was that cuts of subsidies to legal immigrants for rent and food would lead to a $41 million loss for the local economy in the Rogers Park, Edgewater, and Uptown neighborhoods.

CURL’s involvement substantiated the findings, but their partners helped to put the results into action. By calling attention to the impact on the local economy, ONE was able to get the attention of politicians, community leaders, and the media. As the story gained national and even international attention, elected officials who previously were uninterested in taking on the issue were pressured to act. Ultimately, Illinois legislators responded by passing a $10 million addition to the state welfare budget.

Such results wouldn’t be possible without CURL’s partners. “They were able to do things in Springfield that we as a research center and a University are not hardwired to do,” Nyden says. “Research is a tool with which you can shape policy, but that only happens when you put it into play. We need community partners to do that.”

Academic versus activist

Having community partners also helps CURL maintain its own distinct role. Nyden says that as academics they must remain objective in order to produce sound results, and there is a fine line between research and activism when it comes to some of the issues CURL studies. Nyden himself has turned down offers to join partners in lobbying or sit-ins at the mayor’s office to avoid muddying the waters.

It is a lesson he is also careful to emphasize with Loyola students, who play a major part in CURL’s research projects. In some cases, students may be eager to take on a project because of their own personal stance on an issue. When recruiting students for a study on the impact of Chicago’s first urban Walmart store, for example, Nyden recalls one student enthusiastically saying, “I want to get Walmart!”

But as Nyden explained, CURL wasn’t trying to take down the retail giant. The study was intended to research Walmart’s effect on sales tax revenue and employment numbers in the neighborhood, and going into the project there was no way to tell what the results would be. “I didn’t know if we were going to ‘get’ Walmart,” Nyden says. “The results might have been positive.”

It turns out the findings were fairly neutral—tax revenue and employment data were both virtually unchanged by Walmart’s presence in the neighborhood—but the report didn’t indicate the store had a profoundly positive influence on the community either. And that was enough to get Walmart’s attention.

When an interim report was released halfway through the study, Walmart produced a 20-page rebuttal. Two days after the final report was released, the Chicago Sun-Times ran an editorial criticizing CURL’s findings. But when the New York City Council was considering whether to allow Walmart to expand its presence there, they called upon one of the researchers on CURL’s study for input. The Washington Post also asked the lead researchers on the report to write an op-ed about their findings.

Though the results weren’t meant to attack Walmart, they still had a big impact. “I think we really rattled a few cages,” says David Van Zytveld, CURL’s associate director. “I don’t know of a report we’ve done that had, quite frankly, such innocuous results that got so much attention.”

Two-way street

Whether or not their work garners headlines, CURL maintains a commitment to research projects that have a tangible outcome—not only for the community but for the University as well. “I think we have been a benefit to a variety of communities, but it is not a one-way street,” says Van Zytveld. “Our community partners have helped us—both CURL and the University—in our educational mission. We’ve been able to make connections and they have extended our classroom.”

Part of the learning process involves being open to hearing the concerns of a community and following their lead on research projects. A 2002 collaboration with a group of teenage girls in the Uptown neighborhood, for example, focused on questions of race and culture related to how the young women styled their hair. It wasn’t a topic CURL’s researchers would have come up with on their own, but it proved to be a valuable learning experience for both sides.

Developing relationships with people in the community has been a highlight for Nyden, who this year will transition into retirement after 20 years as CURL’s director and nearly four decades at Loyola. At times, he admits, the work can be disheartening, as it provides an up-close view of the toll that issues like poverty and domestic violence take on people’s daily lives. “You put a face on these problems and sometimes that’s disturbing,” he says. “But there’s also a lot of hope there too. That is really critical in the kind of work we do. And it keeps you going.”

It also adds pressure to work toward change. And looking back, Nyden sees the great strides CURL has made both locally and beyond. The center has been a model for researchers at universities nationally and internationally, and its work has had far-reaching policy implications.

“You’ve got to make gains,” Nyden says. “They might be small gains, but those small gains shared with thousands of people are really going to change the quality of people’s lives.”

Ready for takeoff

Intern Michelle King

Loyola senior Michelle King stands in front of the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, where she is working as a summer intern. (Photo: Courtesy of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum)

Intern profile

Loyola senior Michelle King is exploring space through a summer internship at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. In this interview, King, who is majoring in history and minoring in German studies, shares some of her favorite discoveries at the museum and a sneak peek at the future exhibit she's working on.

What attracted you to this internship?
I had done internships at museums in the past, most recently this past spring at the Field Museum. I want to go into museum work, so it seemed natural to keep progressing on that ladder.

What interests you about working in museums?
It is a mixture of working with physical historical objects and educating a wide variety of audiences. I enjoy bringing both real-life objects and real-life stories to people.

What are you currently working on?
The exhibition I’m working on now isn’t going to open to the public until 2021, so we’re in the very early stages of researching artifacts, images, quotations, and other aspects of the exhibit. The topic of the exhibit is how images of Earth from space have changed our perception of ourselves, and I’ve most recently been researching quotations by astronauts and other prominent figures.

What’s something interesting you’ve uncovered in your research?
I’ve been reading transcripts of radio communications of different space flights of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. Reading quotes that have just been recently declassified has been fun, and it is interesting to see famous figures like Jim Lovell, Buzz Aldrin, and John Glenn exclaiming “Oh boy!” when they see Earth for the first time from space.

What’s your favorite part of the Smithsonian?
The door that I walk into every morning lets you see into the Milestones of Flight gallery, which has the Spirit of St. Louis, the lunar module, and so many different amazing planes and spacecraft. That’s a great initial view to see just walking into work every day.

But my personal favorite gallery is “Moving Beyond Earth,” which talks about the space shuttle era and has one of the launches of the space shuttle Discovery projected on a huge screen. It is very contemporary of what is happening in space now.

How will this internship help you in your career?
I would love to build and design exhibits, so working in the space history department here helps me understand how to develop content for an exhibit. I’ve learned that it is not just knowing a lot about the content but trying to think about how people will connect with that content so it can be personalized and interesting for a great variety of visitors.

If you could work on any exhibit, what would it be?
I personally like American history, and I’ve taken a lot of classes at Loyola about German history and World Wars I and II, so those are particular interests of mine. Somehow being able to address World War II in an exhibition would be really exciting for me personally. But when I was little I wanted to be an astronaut, so I really love what I’m doing here at the Smithsonian.

Taking it to the streets


Loyola student James Egan, far left, and Water Tower Campus ministry program director Nicole Chmela, right, sit down with a man experiencing homelessness on Michigan Avenue. As part of Loyola's Labre Ministry, they focus on not just offering aid to the homeless but building meaningful relationships. (Photo: Mark Patton)

For students in Loyola's Labre Ministry, helping people who are homeless begins with a simple 'hello'

By Alexandra Jonker

On a recent summer evening, members of Labre, Loyola’s homeless outreach ministry, met in the chapel at the Terry Student Center for a brief reflection before heading out to Michigan Avenue. Amid the fast-paced shoppers and towering buildings, a quiet man they stooped down to chat with could have easily been missed—another fixture of the city to glance at. They stopped and asked if it would be OK to talk with him for a while, share some food, and see how his day was going. Such an ordinary exchange between a few people—a truly effortless gesture—ended in a dispirited man’s genuine smile, the result of having someone to talk to after a day of being ignored.

The same narrative was repeated throughout the evening, as the group encountered men and women on the street in need of not only food, water, and housing but a friendly face amidst a sea of people walking by.

“Labre understands itself as a ministry of presence,” says James Egan, a Loyola senior studying philosophy and one of Labre’s 15 student leaders. Eight years of ministry and four different routes around the Water Tower Campus have provided Labre with plenty of opportunities to form relationships with those they serve.

“It’s about creating personal connections in a spirit of solidarity with people who are often passed by and ignored,” says Egan. “By listening attentively and offering kindness and conversation, [students] can make a small but significant difference.”

This past spring, Labre acted as a pilot for the University’s crowdfunding efforts—with overwhelmingly generous results. Within five days the student-run organization was able to meet their fundraising goal of $2,000 to support their summer outreach efforts, and then went on to more than double that amount, winding up with a total of $4,600 raised.   

“All of our basic needs will be met,” says Nicole Chmela, Water Tower ministry’s program director, who has been with Labre for its entire eight-year history. But these operating goods—things like hot dogs, granola bars, lemonade, and the coolers in which to put them—aren’t the most important parts of Labre’s work.

“We use food as the mechanism for interaction and dialogue, but really it’s more about building a relationship,” Chmela says.
Those relationships have included highs and lows. Chmela says they have seen some people move back into housing, and others have moved away but later returned. There have also been some individuals experiencing homelessness who Labre members have continued to see since the group’s inception.

Although the focus is on the change that can be enacted on the lives of those on the street, there is also a change that occurs within the students involved. “It’s really at the heart of our Jesuit education,” says Chmela. “Students going out to meet people where they are, sharing their stories, and then coming back and reflecting on that in light of their own lives.”

Being on a campus in the heart of Chicago means students are surrounded by need; those who are struggling to make ends meet are often as close as the nearest sidewalk. Labre serves as an avenue for students to get out of their classrooms to really see what’s going on in the city.  

“Labre is an avenue for students to . . . experience some reality of the streets,” says Chmela. “That informs how they use and value their education, then in turn, what they will do when they leave Loyola. And I think that’s really a beautiful thing.”

The power of resilience


Associate Professor Noni Gaylord-Harden researches the ways urban youth are affected by violence in their community. (Photo: Heather Eidson)

College of Arts and Sciences

Noni Gaylord-Harden finds that resilience can do amazing things for youth struggling in difficult

By Kristen Hannum

Noni Gaylord-Harden, PhD, was talking with kids in a Chicago school one day as part of her community-based research on African American children who are exposed to multiple stresses in their environment. She asked them what their biggest stressor was.

“Trying to get home without getting shot,” they told her. “I was blown away that these 12-year-olds were having to deal with this,” says Gaylord-Harden, an associate professor of psychology now in her 11th year at Loyola. “They talked about being angry and depressed, about how it was affecting their homework.”

Because of what children in the community told her, she and the graduate students she works with began looking more specifically at violence. Her research team comes back to the term “resilience” frequently, because it describes the strategies—such as coping and future orientation—that predict positive outcomes for the children.

“If they can continue to maintain positive thoughts about the future, about living beyond 18 or 21, they do better,” Gaylord-Harden says. Depression, on the other hand, is a key predictor for less positive outcomes. “If you develop hopelessness,” she says, “you’re more likely to put yourself in dangerous situations.”

Loyola is critical to her work because of the nature of those conversations with children in Chicago schools. “The voices in community have to be heard,” she says. “We maintain the relationships and continue to earn trust.”

Gaylord-Harden’s research gives her an opportunity to work with many families through intervention, whereas in clinical work she was limited to helping one family at a time. Still, it’s not something she planned to do. She earned a PhD in clinical psychology and was working with children in an impoverished community in Tennessee. The children there were going to inadequate schools and facing discrimination and violence.

“The research said they should all have negative life outcomes,” says Gaylord-Harden. “That’s when I began learning about resilience."

She became a postdoctoral clinical research associate through the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago and has been widely published in her field. But she especially enjoys working with her students.

“The beauty of psychology is that it draws people who want to help others,” she says. Loyola magnifies that. “I knew coming in that I would have the opportunity to have class discussions on social justice issues. I think students are drawn to Loyola because of its commitment to social justice,” she says. 

In her human diversity course, she focuses on social justice in the last class. A handout helps students write about their role in creating justice. “For me, a reason for writing a mission statement is that it helps me remember why I’m doing the work in the first place,” she tells them.

“I revisit my mission statement and remember conversations I’ve had, the smiles I’ve seen, and the feeling of knowing my work is important.”

Meet more Loyola faculty who are focused on social justice:

Global challenges, global solutions


The new online textbook Healing Earth is divided into six chapters covering key topics related to modern ecological issues: biodiversity, natural resources, energy, water, food, and global climate change. (Photo illustration by Joe Darrow)

Loyola joins Jesuit institutions worldwide to collaborate on Healing Earth, an online textbook tackling modern ecological issues

Shrinking natural resources, a declining food and water supply, and the planet’s changing climate are among the pressing environmental challenges for people in all corners of the globe. And educating the next generation on how to understand and begin to address these issues is going to require a global effort.

Enter the International Jesuit Ecology Project (IJEP), a first-of-its-kind initiative that brings together members of the worldwide Jesuit education network for a shared mission. Realizing that educating students about these pressing 21st-century challenges necessitates a 21st-century resource, the IJEP have launched Healing Earth, a free, online environmental science textbook for upper-level secondary schools and beginning college students.

Led by a team from Loyola University Chicago, the project reflects the work of more than 90 scholars from Jesuit institutions across the globe with a wide range of expertise. Broken into six chapters—biodiversity, natural resources, energy, water, food, and global climate change—the book offers perspectives on modern ecological issues from a scientific, ethical, and spiritual perspective. Healing Earth also provides a platform for students around the world to share their perspectives on environmental issues in real time.

“We want students to learn more than the science behind our environmental problems—we want them to reflect on the complicated social issues these problems create,” says Michael Schuck, PhD, associate professor of theology at Loyola and Healing Earth co-editor. “Students want to be engaged as whole people; they want their minds, hearts, and spirits challenged, and they want to be mobilized. Healing Earth meets our students as whole people.”

With the support of Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., chancellor of Loyola University Chicago and secretary of the Jesuit Global Higher Education Directorate, and Patxi Álvarez de los Mozos, S.J., director of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat in in the Jesuit Curia, the IJEP was initiated in the fall of 2011. Soon after, Healing Earth was identified as the project’s major initiative. In October 2012, a team of 31 experts from 10 countries gathered at Loyola’s Retreat and Ecology Campus to conceptualize and outline the textbook.

“The Society of Jesus has identified environmental sustainability and ecological challenges—which disproportionately affect the lives of the poor and marginalized—as a major area of concern,” says Father Garanzini. “All Jesuit institutions, especially universities, have been called on to address these issues, something which we are uniquely qualified to do.”          

The goal of the book is to provide students a holistic view of these problems and a hopeful, action-oriented response at the local level. As an online resource, the digital text can be updated with new resource links and video content. It will also unite students from around the globe and give them access to educational materials that may otherwise be unavailable.

For Keith Esenther, S.J., an ESL instructor at Arrupe College in Harare, Zimbabwe, that is a major benefit of the project. “In Zimbabwe, the Internet is much easier to access than printed textbooks,” he says.

Healing Earth will help us understand how to use the world’s resources in a way that is fair and honest and recognizes their limitations, and its online format will allow us to deliver this information to students in the developing world.”

IJEP collaborators plan to create additional resources for educators, which will include forums for lesson plan sharing and a teacher’s manual. To accommodate a global audience, the textbook is being translated into multiple languages, including Spanish and French, which will be available later this year.

To view the textbook, visit healingearth.ijep.net. To learn more about the project, visit LUC.edu/ijep.

Voices of change


During the Vietnam War, student protests were common on the Loyola campus and students, with faculty support, even shut down the campus in 1970 in the wake of the Kent State Shootings (above). Current students like Loyola junior Kelsey Cheng (below) are also passionate about activism, but often approach it in a different manner. (Top photo: Loyola University Archives; Kelsey Cheng photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Like generations before them, today’s Loyola students continue a tradition of activism on campus

By Anna Gaynor

For Kelsey Cheng, the passion for activism wasn’t sparked by just one event. As a freshman, her biology major increasingly seemed like a poor fit. But fortunately, her decision to get involved in student government was paying off. She sought out and received some helpful advice from a Loyola senior while on a retreat, then learned more from her advisor. But what really crystallized her change in direction was a trip to Washington, DC, for the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s social justice conference.

“I was very thrown off,” says Cheng. “The weekend I went was the 25th anniversary of the (murder of the) Jesuit martyrs in El Salvador, and that kind of served as a big inspiration for me wanting to work for justice in my life. I had the realization that if I wanted to keep doing these things like lobbying and having an active role in my government, I needed an experience outside of my own life and background.”

All of these experiences sent Cheng down a different path. She switched her major from biology to advertising and public relations. Now a junior, Cheng remains involved with student government and has broadened her interests by helping out with campus ministry, the Green Initiative Fund, and the student-led Magis Scholarship Initiative, which will provide financial support to undocumented students. As she looks toward graduation and beyond, Cheng says she would eventually like to put her skills and passion to work as a lobbyist.

“I don’t think I would’ve discovered my passion for activism and advocacy had I not come to Loyola,” Cheng says. “This is ‌completely different than all other colleges I applied to, and I think Loyola gives you the tools you need to learn how to become an advocate.”

Many advocacy minded students and alumni have a story similar to Cheng’s. While some arrive on campus dedicated to making a difference, others, like Cheng, find their calling along the way. The motivation could be rooted in a personal struggle against injustice, an experience of witnessing activism firsthand, or values grounded in a family’s ethos. For Cheng, it was an invitation to look at the world and better understand what’s happening and how she could affect change.‌

Activism on college campuses has a long and rich history. It has had its ebbs and flows through the years, with quiet periods offset by major protests around issues of national concern. During the Vietnam War era, for example, students made their voices heard at Loyola and on other campuses on a regular basis. Following the shootings at Kent State in 1970, Loyola students and some alumni destroyed draft records and organized a student strike.

“As soon as that happened, the situation went from being a matter of protest to a vociferous reaction,” says history professor Theodore Karamanski. “There were students at Loyola, my cousin included, who really got into this. He went over to the local hardware store and bought some big chains, and they chained up Damen Hall so nobody could get in.” Those attempts to prevent classes, with the support of faculty, ultimately ended the academic year early.

Karamanski arrived on campus as a student the following year and has been a faculty member since 1979. In that time, he’s seen students speak out on the Iraq War and Occupy Wall Street. Today, national issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement have sparked discussion on campus, with the three founders of the movement being invited to speak on campus in January and the first Black Lives Matter conference being held in April. Students also took a stand locally by joining public appeals to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to approve legislation extending MAP grants during the state’s budget crisis.

“Since the Enlightenment, the university has been a site for not only the passing down of traditional knowledge but also for the consideration of different kinds of ideas,” says Kelly Moore, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology. “It’s simultaneously a place of tradition—and also a place of creativity, of innovation, and of debate.”

Moore, whose research focuses on social movements as well as science and technology, supported her own causes while in graduate school at the University of Arizona. In addition to fighting to end the death penalty, she was active in the Central American Peace Movement in the 1980s, where she also helped resettle refugees from conflict.

At Loyola, Moore talks to current students taking part in demonstrations on campus, including pro-life groups and gay rights groups. She often finds that they see their rallies as just a continuation of what they’re learning in classes like theology, history, and even science.

“Young people are idealistic,” Moore says. “They are hopeful, and they are trying to make the world a better place. Sometimes what they do is they wonder whether their university can do better, so sometimes they’re taking aim at some practices, policies, or activities of the university. Sometimes they’re taking aim at other things, like war or Apartheid.”

A more active campus allows a university to reflect on how members of its community talk with and listen to one another. At Loyola, many questions have been raised: Is the University doing all it can to foster understanding, welcome diverse perspectives, listen without bias, and create opportunities for dialogue? Considering those questions has led to some changes on campus.

This spring the University undertook a review of its demonstration policy, gathering input from students, faculty, and staff to develop a policy that allows students more flexibility to express their views in a timely, respectful manner. In addition to a more flexible demonstration policy, there have been several listening sessions on campus with faculty, staff, and students.  

In January, Interim President John P. Pelissero, PhD, emphasized to the University community Loyola’s dedication to respecting the conversations that take place on campus. “As a Jesuit, Catholic university, we are committed to welcoming an open exchange of ideas and fostering respect and understanding, especially when discussing and debating complex issues,” he wrote in a letter to faculty and staff.

Another commitment has been the appointment of Christopher Manning, an associate history professor who focuses on 20th century politics, to the President’s Cabinet as a diversity advisor. Like Moore, Manning took up the activist mantle during his own college years.

While studying at the University of Alabama in Hunstville, Manning organized a Martin Luther King march with other nearby colleges and universities. And as president of the Black Student Association, he led the fight to stop a fraternity from flying a confederate flag on campus and at sporting events.

‌As a historian, Manning points out that the field is just beginning to look beyond the notable speeches and marches of the civil rights movement. Many researchers are now taking a closer look at what was happening behind the scenes, beyond the momentous events, including those who were organizing the events and working to build support. Manning’s current focus is researching the effectiveness of change through politics and legislation.

“It’s much more glamorous to get the picture of the young dude in the street with a Che shirt on and a beret,” Manning says. “That’s glamorous and it’s important, but that same guy could grow up to become a local alderman or that same young lady could be running for Congress.”

For young activists like Cheng, Manning says there’s a lot to learn from the activists of the past. “Take the time to study movement building and historical case studies to understand that there are multiple roles necessary for a movement to be successful,” he says. “Learn what those roles are, consider the roles that can be utilized to move your agenda forward, and honor the contributions of all of your allies, partners, and teammates.”

Lessons in justice


Seungho Moon, EdD, an assistant professor in the School of Education, works with Loyola juniors in his "Teaching & Learning Within a Global Framework" class at Ogden International School. Moon's research focuses on promoting social justice and equity through curriculum studies. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

School of Education

Seungho Moon focuses on promoting social justice and equity through curriculum studies

By Kristen Hannum

“I try to promote cross-cultural conversation between East and West,” says Seungho Moon, EdD, an assistant professor of curriculum studies in the School of Education. Through his programs in schools, his writing, and his teaching, the native of South Korea advocates for arts in school curricula, giving children a safe environment to explore and share their diverse perspectives.

“Art gives us different ways to communicate, gives us a space to think about and respect different ways of thinking,” he explains. “Art is an intangible element, giving rise to our social and ethical imagination. It opens up unknown ways of knowing.”

Curriculum studies as a field explores what knowledge is important. “It looks at what is considered known, and how do we decide who knows what,” Moon says. “I try to provide different ways of looking at the world from different schools of scholarship.” He wants his students to ask other questions as well, beginning with, “How do we promote learning, equity, and justice?”

Moon deliberately carries forward the work of his mentor, Maxine Greene, an education theorist who spoke and wrote at length about the importance of imagination. Another mentor, Janet Miller, taught him the importance of openness in defining curriculum. He met them while studying for his doctorate at Teachers College, Columbia University.

He’s proven a prolific writer on curriculum studies that promotes equity, multiculturalism, and justice, authoring dozens of articles, book reviews, book chapters, and translations in both Korean and English.

His transnational background, love of arts and philosophy, passion for social justice, and belief in the power of the imagination all led to Moon’s critical questioning of frames of important knowledge and power operations.

Moon came to Loyola in 2015 after teaching for four years at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Budget cuts have meant that arts education in Oklahoma isn’t part of children’s school day. Moon wrote a grant for an afterschool program, ARtS—Aesthetic, Reflexive thoughts and Sharing. Fourth, fifth, and sixth graders in the course share their multiple perspectives through their art.

Moon describes both Chicago and Loyola as his “land of opportunity,” a place he can further his work in partnership with schools, designing curricula that combine the arts and social justice. He hopes to build those programs through the School of Education’s apprenticeship, community-based teacher education program, which works in a variety of schools.

“Teaching is not something you can learn from textbooks,” Moon says. “You have to learn by participation. I try to have fieldwork and theory interwoven in each course. You can’t do one and not the other.”

Meet more Loyola faculty who are focused on social justice:

A winning combination


Freshman nursing student Maddy Moser helped the women's volleyball team hit the 20-win mark while also making the dean's list with a 4.0 GPA. Moser is just one of the outstanding Loyola students who balance academic excellence with athletic prowess. (Photo: Steve Woltmann, Loyola University Chicago Athletics)

For Loyola’s student athletes, success in sports is outscored only by achievements in the classroom

By Alexandra Jonker

Coming off of back-to-back NCAA championships, the Loyola Rambler men’s volleyball team began the 2016 season with a seven-game winning streak. Meanwhile, women’s volleyball had their best season in over a decade, reaching 20 wins for the first time since 2004 and making it to the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) tournament for the first time. Men’s and women’s soccer are also on a roll, with both teams having standout performances in last year’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

Although these are impressive stats, perhaps even more impressive are the success rates of Loyola’s student athletes in another arena—the classroom. The Ramblers have a graduation success rate (GSR) of 98 percent, tying Loyola for third place nationally alongside such elite schools as Columbia, Harvard, Notre Dame, Princeton, and Yale. This is the highest-ever GSR recorded for Loyola athletics and marks the sixth consecutive year the department has seen improvement.

Loyola also scores high on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR), a team-based metric based on the eligibility, retention, and graduation of scholarship student athletes. Of Loyola’s 11 athletics programs, 10 had a perfect APR of 1,000 for 2014-2015 and eight have a perfect multiyear score.

“We are extremely proud of how our student athletes perform both in competition and in the classroom,” says Loyola Director of Athletics Steve Watson. “The NCAA data shows that we are on the right track in preparing our student athletes for life after Loyola, and the fact that we have done that while maintaining a high level of success on the playing fields shows how special Loyola can be.”

So to what, or whom, do these students owe their success? For student athletes like Jake Mazanke, the answer is twofold: first, to themselves and second, to their support system of coaches, academic advisors, and fellow athletes.

Mazanke, a senior journalism major, has been a record-breaking track and field star during his time with the Ramblers. In the 2014-2015 season, Mazanke clocked the third-fastest 600m time in school history (1:18.56) and finished first at the Indiana Relays. He was also runner-up in the 800m at the Meyo Invitational with the second-fastest time in school history (1:48.57), and was a member of the distance medley relay team that broke the school record at the Alex Wilson Invitational.

Off the field he’s been involved in multiple student organizations and interned with the Big Ten Network, all while maintaining a 3.92 GPA. His accomplishments have earned him the Missouri Valley Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Week honor three times since coming to Loyola.

“Being a part of the team has pushed me academically because it holds me accountable to get things done,” Mazanke says. “Not only do I have to stay on top of things to be eligible, but for me personally, our team GPA is really important. I want our team to do well in the classroom as well. I take that very seriously, almost as much as my own athletic performance.”

For freshman nursing student Maddy Moser, the transition from high school to college athletics required only “a little bit of adjusting.” As a member of the women’s volleyball team, she’s in good company: In addition to winning 20 games this season they earned the AVCA Team Academic Award, given to teams that maintain at least a 3.30 cumulative GPA. Moser contributed to the team’s success both on the court and by maintaining a 4.0 GPA in her first semester, which also earned her a spot on the dean’s list. She credits Loyola with helping players stay on track academically.

“There are a lot of resources at Loyola,” she says. “We have our academic advisors, which help a lot. And then Norville is a place where we can all study, and our academic advisors will help us get set up with tutors if we need them.”

“We take great pride in our student athletes and build strong relationships with them,” says Patricia Hoffmann, senior academic advisor to student athletes. That includes directing students to resources such as tutors and the Writing Center, assisting with pre-registration advising, and monitoring academic performance up through graduation.

Students learn early on how to coordinate their course syllabi with their academic calendar and the demands of their sport, helping them to strike a balance between the two. “We provide the resources for success,” says Hoffmann, “but the student athletes are the ones who challenge themselves each and every day to be the best they can be in competition and in the classroom.”

Chris Muscat, now in his fourth season as head coach of Loyola’s women’s volleyball, tries to emphasize long-term thinking for student athletes. “I think that it’s a balance between trying to make sure that volleyball is a priority for them, which takes up a lot of hours, but also what is equally important for them—the 60 years after their athletic career here is done,” Muscat says.

Women’s soccer head coach Barry Bimbi ascribes to the same philosophy as Muscat when it comes to the academics of his players. “We talk a lot of big picture, like post graduate life, especially with those kids that are really struggling with academics,” says Bimbi. “It’s like this: You are not really going to be a professional soccer player, you are going to be someone in the business world or a doctor or a physical therapist. So we try to get them focused on life after their four years here.”

However, when it comes down to it, excellence may just be inherent in what it means to be a Loyola Rambler.

“For us, not only recruiting great athletes but recruiting the right people who we hope can have academic success here is pretty important,” says Muscat. “I think I would attribute a great deal of the recent success to the quality of student athlete we are able to recruit to a school like Loyola—one that has a great academic reputation.”

Taking a healthier position


Amy Luke, PhD, a professor of public health at Loyola's Stritch School of Medicine, stops by the First Congregational Church in Maywood for an evening dance class. Through her involvement with the Maywood Fine Arts Association, Luke is able to help families learn about health and nutrition. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Stritch School of Medicine

Maywood Fine Arts offers professor Amy Luke a forum for promoting nutrition and healthy living

By Erinn Connor

On a rainy weekday night, Amy Luke, PhD, stops by First Congregational Church in Maywood, just a block down from the Maywood Fine Arts Association headquarters. In a large auditorium, dozens of girls in leotards and tutus chatter excitedly. Every so often a bell would ding, as the kids dropped spare change into a bank collecting donations for a new dance studio. The old Maywood Fine Arts studio burned down in a fire in 2010 and the association is now fundraising for a new space with their “Raising the Barre” campaign. 

Luke, a professor of public health sciences at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine, greets Taiyana Shurn, the dance instructor who was once a student herself. Parents poke their heads in the door as they drop their kids off, saying hello to both Luke and Lois Baumann, who founded the organization with her husband, Ernie. The two women stand in the wings as Shurn starts playing a Disney soundtrack and the kids start going through the basic ballet positions.

Baumann and Luke weave through the rows of kids, correcting their poses and making sure toes are properly pointed. Pictures of dancers past and present hang on the walls of the auditorium, showing just how many kids have gone through the doors of Maywood Fine Arts and been affected by the time Luke, Baumann, and others have invested in the community.

At the forefront of this involvement is Luke, a professor at Loyola for 22 years whose simple curiosity started the empowerment of a community. Luke and her husband, Carter, a jazz musician, saw a group of kids performing tumbling routines in Oak Park. They were impressed by the performance and tracked down the name of the group—the kids were part of the Maywood Fine Arts Association.

Since that encounter, Luke and her husband have been heavily involved in the growth of Maywood Fine Arts. She’s served on the board of directors since 2001 and her husband teaches music lessons to the children. Her son Miles now participates in those same tumbling classes she first saw in Oak Park.

She’s constantly checking in on the association’s different programs. Luke sees them from two perspectives, as a Maywood resident and a public health researcher. Maywood Fine Arts offers opportunities in an area that is nearly desolate of creative outlets. It also gives them the chance to be active and healthy when their circumstances don’t automatically allow that lifestyle.

“Living here and understanding the challenges has helped inform my work with the association as well as my research,” Luke says. “I’ve gotten to know the people and understand what they want for themselves and their kids.”

As she continued working with Maywood Fine Arts, she noticed the lack of nutritional and healthy lifestyle knowledge by the kids and their families. “You start to notice things like Maywood doesn’t have a grocery store, that there are a lot of single-parent homes, that the kids just didn’t know what healthy foods were,” Luke says. “My research work is focused on chronic diseases—obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, which a lot of these kids were at risk for.”

Luke has helped implement many fitness and healthy living initiatives that feed into her research interests. With the help of other public health faculty and students, she’s started cooking classes and created a community garden. Maywood was also a recruitment site for a study she worked on looking at the high rates of elevated high blood pressure in African Americans.

Beginning in 2009, she was a co-principal investigator with David Shoham, PhD, on the Modeling Obesity Through Simulation (MOTS) project. This National Institutes of Health grant involved untangling the many complicated factors of childhood obesity and how they feed into each other. For example, disadvantaged communities have a lack of grocery stores, a large number of fast food restaurants, and a lack of physical activity options. These are all prominent in Maywood and the surrounding neighborhoods, and these factors were an important part of the study. This is where Maywood Fine Arts comes in to combat a lot of these issues. It serves nearly 1,000 students in their classes, and their families are 72 percent African American and 22 percent Hispanic. For some of these kids, it’s the only extracurricular activity they’re involved in.

Luke is determined to integrate Loyola into the community by recruiting medical and public health students to help with her research and make fitness a big focus of the association.

Loyola’s Institute of Public Health received a grant in early 2015 to develop and test a Family-based Lifestyle Intervention Program (FLIP) for low-income African American and Hispanic and Latino families. The program will promote the adoption of healthy lifestyles. It involves monthly meetings with families; quarterly health assessments that measure weight, blood pressure, and fitness levels; and monthly cooking and fitness workshops. Because of the funding, researchers will be able to examine the long-term effects over seven to 10 years, rare in a health study focusing on low-income families.

“Getting the community engaged with nutrition and healthy activity will always be a central pillar of what Loyola is doing in Maywood and at the association,” Luke says. “I’m hoping to gradually recruit more students and faculty into research opportunities in Maywood as we continue to add more programs.”

The 37-year-old nonprofit welcomes Luke’s help with open arms and hopes Loyola continues to be involved in their backyard in the years to come. “When we started Maywood Fine Arts, we wanted to do something right by the kids and families in a city that never really got back on its feet,” Baumann says. “If we don’t have people like Amy Luke finding us and getting involved, we certainly don’t stand a chance of sticking around and making a long-term difference for these kids.”

As the music winds down at the First Congregational Church, the kids finish their warmup and are bouncing around, full of energy.

“Good work ladies and gentlemen!” Luke claps, the kids smiling from ear to ear. “That was beautiful!”

“She’s been one of our largest advocates and a guiding star for Maywood Fine Arts,” says Baumann, watching Luke and the kids with a grin. “She believes in the kids and the opportunities we offer them.

Read more stories about members of the Stritch community working to address health disparities

An intimate portrait of Alzheimer’s


William Utermohlen's "Snow" illustrates the growing reclusiveness of the artist, who is pictured away from the ongoing conversation. Utermohlen continued to paint self-portraits after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, documenting the affects of the disease on his brain.

An artist's work offers a unique look inside the mind of someone suffering from a debilitating disease

By Evangeline Politis

According to the Alzheimer's Association, one in nine Americans over age 65 has Alzheimer’s, and the majority of those with the disease are over age 75. A degenerative brain disease, it is the most common cause of dementia and is characterized by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving, and other cognitive skills. For UK-based artist William Utermohlen, the symptoms began in his late 50s and he was diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease before he even reached the age of 65.

William Utermohlen: A Persistence of Memory follows his career, tracing the effects of the cognitive impairment on both his style and perspective. The exhibition at Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) showcases the span of Utermohlen’s work, from his classically trained portraiture to emotionally charged abstraction.

“If you did not know that this man was suffering from Alzheimer’s, you could simply perceive the work as a stylistic change,” says Pam Ambrose, director of LUMA and cultural affairs at Loyola. “As the disease progressed, he was unable to render pictorial space correctly, but was truly able to express emotion through his work.”

‌Walking through the exhibition, Ambrose points to two specific paintings. The first is part of the artist’s “The Conversations Pieces,” a series of six pieces that depict the intimate world of his wife and their London flat. This set of works was created years before his diagnosis, but as signs of the illness were starting emerge. The colorful pieces feature tilted picture planes and ungrounded objects, whimsically floating in space.

Utermohlen’s 1990 piece, Snow, illustrates his growing reclusiveness. Four people are engaged in conversation at the dining room table, while Utermohlen is pictured far removed from the social engagement, on the sofa with a cat in his lap. The piece is flanked by two bleak, black-and-white landscapes, one of which could be perceived as a graveyard.

“This painting gives us a clue that Utermohlen was really pulling away,” explains Ambrose. “He was becoming less articulate at this time. This is where I believe artists have a leg up with the effects of the disease; although they lost the ability to communicate verbally and in writing, they continue to communicate through art.”

LUMA’s ilLUMAnations program, in partnership with Northwestern University’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, works to develop that ability. The three-year-old program, offered nine times a year, uses the arts to engage Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. The museum at Loyola’s Water Tower Campus was chosen because of its quiet and intimate space—an atmosphere that wouldn’t be too overwhelming.

Working with Loyola’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts, the workshops combine art, dance, and music with a social hour. Qualitative evaluations have shown that participants with the disease have gained increased social engagement, self-esteem, and verbal communication skills. In the next year, LUMA hopes to expand IlLUMAnations to include both morning and afternoon sessions. 

‌As a second key painting of the exhibition shows, Utermohlen used art to communicate his deepest emotions as his life progressed. In Self Portrait with a Saw (1997), the artist depicts himself with an anxious, perplexed expression and with a miter saw. Though commonly used by artists to cut wood for canvases and frames, the saw meant something more to Utermohlen—his physician told him that the only way to know for certain if he had Alzheimer's would be to cut into his skull to examine his brain after he died. “That image stuck in his mind, and he immediately painted this piece," explains Ambrose. "Artists internalize everything—luckily, musicians and visual artists especially have the advantage of an engrained need, almost compulsion, really, to express themselves.”

The exhibit William Utermohlen: A Persistence of Memory ran through July 23, 2016. For more information on the exhibitions currently on view at LUMA, visit LUC.edu/LUMA.

Choose good food

Scott Commings

Scott Commings puts the finishing touches on a few loaves of freshly baked bread.

Being a great cook is all about selecting the right ingredients

By Scott Commings

We live in a time of convenience. We can order anything from around the world and have it at your door within 24 hours. That access is a wonderful thing to have as a chef, but when do we begin to sacrifice the integrity of food by having things so readily available? 

Through our restaurants and retailers, we have been taught that it is always possible to get that perfect red tomato for our salads in the middle of January. We can pick up ripe-like produce anytime of the year whether it is in season or not. What do we lose by this? We lose everything that ingredient was grown for, including, in many cases, nutrition. We lose flavor and natural sweetness in our vegetables. On average, the vegetables we consume are traveling over 1,500 miles to get to us. Produce is picked before it is ripe and full of nutrients. We need to look more toward seasonality to determine our daily menus.

At the Loyola University Ecology Campus, we are trying to fully grasp the farm-to-table relationship. With over five acres of growing space, we are able to supplement a good portion of our produce used in our facility. Also we work with local farmers as well to not only help us with products but support their efforts as well. We are lucky to be located in an area with abundance of growers and livestock farms.

I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of the local farmers in my area, thanks in part to my profession, but also to our community that supports and yearns for our local market. I have been able to develop wonderful relationships with the farms that are supporting our community.

Farmers just want to produce. They are the backbone to our food systems. These are the people that sow the seeds in the spring, tend and nurture the vines as they grow, pray for rain and then harvest the fruit that feeds our families. You can see the passion for their products as you walk through the market. You can see the hard work in their soil laced hands as they hold up their crops and show their excitement about the multi-colored carrots they just picked.

Everyone has heard the refrain, “Eat local!” It should really just say, “Choose good food.” Choose to eat foods that are grown in a way that maintains their nutritional qualities. Choose foods that aren’t processed and mishandled.

Everyone can be a great cook. All you have to do is pick great ingredients and let them stand for themselves.

The tooth of the matter

Juliet Brophy

Juliet Brophy. PhD, of the anthropology department, analyzes the shape of tooth fossils to identify ancient species.

Juliet Brophy studies teeth to help identify early human ancestors

Last fall, more than 1,200 hominid fossils were discovered and excavated in and around a cave system called Rising Star in northeast South Africa. The quantity and preservation level of the findings garnered international attention, and the world is waiting to find out what exactly Rising Star contains. Paleoanthropologist Juliet Brophy, PhD, a lecturer in Loyola’s Department of Anthropology, is one of the scientists who will help answer that question. 

Brophy is now on site at Rising Star, analyzing  fossil teeth and comparing them to data sets from other sites. By photographing the teeth, digitizing their images, and, in the simplest terms, trying to match the shapes to others in her collection, she may be able to identify the species of hominids—our early human ancestors—whose remains have been in those caves for millions of years. 

The first teeth Brophy analyzed were those of bovids, which are in the same family as cows. 

Although paleoanthropology is an interpretive science, Brophy was uncomfortable with the level of subjectivity she saw in the field. 

“I would say, how do you know it’s X instead of Y?” Brophy says. “If you have a large X, it might look like a small Y. How did you know how to divide those up? Two people can identify the same fossil differently. Or a person can look at a fossil and identify it, only to look at it again 10 years later and change their mind.”

Brophy landed on tooth shape analysis as a way to combat interobserver error and make identification less subjective.

“We rely upon these animals [bovids] really heavily to determine all these hypotheses about extinction events and behavior and adaptations,” Brophy says. “If there’s subjectivity in their identification, and we’re misidentifying these bovids, we’ll have false results and make wrong hypotheses based on them.”

With a more objective way of identifying bovid species by tooth shape, she was able to reconstruct the environment of one of our early human ancestors, throwing doubt on some standing hypotheses about what caused that species to go extinct. 

Since she had been so successful with the bovid teeth, Brophy applied the method to analyze hominid teeth at a site called Malapa, also in South Africa, in 2010. 

“So we compared the tooth shape of the individuals we identified at Malapa to other species found in the same area in order to aid in their identification,” Brophy says. “The individuals turned out to be a transitional species between early human ancestors and our genus, Homo.” 

Brophy’s data sets from Malapa are among those she’s using for comparison at Rising Star. Although results have so far been encouraging, she is still trying to test the assumption that shape is species-specific with hominids. 

“If we find that teeth at Rising Star look exactly like teeth at Malapa, does that mean they’re 100 percent the same species?” Brophy says. “Or does it just mean that they have similar teeth?” She is unlikely to settle the debate once and for all at Rising Star, but it’s an exciting question nonetheless.

For a project built on ancient history, Rising Star is also evidence of the future of paleoanthropology. Rising Star, like Malapa before it, is open-access, meaning that the site is open to any scientists whose proposals, like Brophy’s, are accepted for research. 

“This is a really new way of doing paleoanthropology,” Brophy says. “Traditionally, people excavate fossils and present at meetings, but then you don’t hear anything more for a year or so. If you know a person or have an in, then maybe you get to see the fossils. It’s been a secretive science for a long time. If you open it up, you have a dialogue; you create a conversation.”

Brophy believes this is ultimately beneficial.  

“It’s not good science to keep it closed up. It’s healthy to compare and debate results.” 

What has resulted from the open call, which expressly encouraged early-career scientists, is a group of researchers from all over the world and of all ages converging on Rising Star.

Through their expertise and collaboration, we all stand to learn more about our early ancestors.



Talking trash

Timothy Hoellein

Timothy Hoellein, PhD, collects and analyzes trash in Chicago waterways to learn about the effects of refuse on river ecosystems.

Timothy Hoellein studies garbage in the Chicago River and its effects

As anyone who’s seen (or smelled) the Chicago River can attest to, the waterway contains a good amount of garbage. But what is it made of, and how does it affect the river’s ecosystem? Tim Hoellein, PhD, an aquatic ecologist in Loyola’s biology department, is on the case.

Two years ago, Hoellein and a group of students trawled the North Branch of the river for garbage. “We’d mark off the length of stream, usually about a hundred yards or so, where it was knee-deep, and we’d walk up the river, slowly, sort of feeling and looking and grabbing all the garbage we could find,” Hoellein says. They did the same in the vegetation next to the stream. They hauled all of their findings back to the lab to count, organize, and weigh the garbage.

The garbage was mostly glass bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers, and pieces of ceramic. Among the more interesting items of refuse were pieces of bikes, tires, a bowling ball, a fire extinguisher, and a shopping cart. Having no prescribed set of techniques for garbage analysis, Hoellein borrowed the methods normally used to analyze organic material like algae or insects. Although he knew they’d find a lot of garbage, Hoellein was still surprised by the volume.

“It was abundant and heavy,” he says.

The next step was to analyze what effect the garbage had on food webs in the river—particularly regarding biofilm, the thin slimy film composed of algae and bacteria that covers rocks, driftwood, and garbage if it’s present. The biofilm carries out photosynthesis and is a food source for insects, which are then food for fish. Hoellein wanted to discover if the biofilm on garbage was comparable to that on naturally occurring river objects.

Hoellein and his team cut pieces of glass, plastic, and aluminum into little squares, which were then attached to larger pieces of plastic. They put samples in the Chicago River, the pond at the Retreat and Ecology Campus, and in the artificial stream facility at the Lake Shore Campus.

There were some differences. “We found that the photosynthesis rate was lower on aluminum and glass relative to a natural surface, like a rock.” Hoellein says. “Also, some of the microbes which colonize litter are different than natural surfaces. For example, we expected those on leaves and cardboard to be similar, but in fact they showed strong differences.”

Hollein says there were fewer distinctions among 'hard' or inorganic surfaces—the microbes on rocks were similar to those on glass, plastic, and aluminum. 

Understanding these similarities and differences allows Hoellein to make some predictions about what type of litter affects these organisms, which are an important link at the bottom of the stream food web. 

He and colleague John Kelly, PhD, also of the biology department, are also collecting data on more watersheds in the greater Chicagoland region.  They are measuring microplastics (small pieces of plastic between 0.3-5 mm) in rivers the area, and finding that concentrations are similar to those in the ocean and great lakes. Their next steps are to carry out the project to examine colonization by algae.  And all this is only the beginning.

“In general, we have just begun to quantify how much of this material is there, and whether we can expect it to have an impact in these urban stream ecosystems,” Hoellein says. 


How one Loyola professor helped me transform my writing

Mara Martini
Sometimes it only takes one class—or one special teacher—to change a student's life

By Mara Martini (MA '92, MEd '98)

Before becoming a graduate student at Loyola, I remained uninterested and unconcerned about the quality of my writing—despite a poor grade in a college course at another university. However, at my first meeting with my graduate advisor in the sociology department at Loyola, he spoke these intimidating words: "If you get 2 C’s you are out of the program."

Clearly, it was time for a change.   

It was in the class of one sociology professor, Kirsten Grønbjerg, that I chose to begin to change my writing. Professor Grønbjerg was serious, genuine, and all business. In her course, I wrote a research paper on the book The Gold Coast and the Slum by Harvey Warren Zorbaugh, which described these geographic areas in early 20th century Chicago with the eye of an urban sociologist.

I started with the most common grammatical complaint of Professor Grønbjerg: the unnecessary use of the passive voice. With guidance from an English grammar book, I changed each instance of the passive voice to active voice. I also corrected my haphazard tendency to switch verb tenses and my sloppy transitions between paragraphs. Correcting all the errors led me to re-examine my thinking behind them and to change the entire trajectory of my paper.   

Once I saw for myself the improvement in my grammar, sentence structure, and organization, I wanted to continue improving. With every subsequent paper I wrote, I tore up multiple drafts, felt mentally stuck, and made progress over time. It’s been a frustrating and rewarding process.

After graduating from Loyola and beginning a graduate program overseas, I had enough courage to write book reviews for two international education journals. Based on these book reviews, my advisor asked me to review manuscripts of master’s and doctoral students. In my professional positions I have used the skills gained at Loyola to edit recommendations letters, journal articles, and staff training manuals.   

As both a student and alum, I have shared my story of Professor Grønbjerg with other students to encourage them with their own writing. I tutored a high school student in English and cast a critical eye on her college entrance essay. She was subsequently accepted to her first choice college.

Professor Grønbjerg took the time and care to show me that I could improve my writing. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to thank her in person at a Loyola alumni event a few years ago. Though she had already left Loyola, she had returned to attend a former colleague’s retirement party. From her reaction, she had no idea that she had affected me so much.

About the author

Mara Martini (MA '92, MEd '98) lives in Chicago, where she works as a project manager in the Urban Education Institute at the University of Chicago. After graduating from Loyola, she completed an MEd in Practitioner Research at the Institute of Education in London England to obtain a first-hand international perspective on education. She has also published book reviews, revised graduate student manuscripts, and tutored a high school student.